I don't know this place.
Its hills, its further mountains, its farthest glaciers. I don't know them. I want to.
I'm in an in-between place, a place where I'm not sure if I'm a permanent part. I question if I mean anything to anyone here, or if I'm just a tiny fragment in passing, an unclear memory someone will recall a few years from now while they struggle with my name.
"You remember — that girl! She came from Utah, or Florida, or somewhere—"
It doesn't matter too much at times. I was alone before I came here. Then again, it matters because I want it to matter. I want to care about a place. I want to be tied to it, to see people on the street and hug them. I want to be connected to the land of a place. I want to understand it, to have a give and take relationship with it, to be challenged and comforted by it.
I want to go away but be ready at the end to return to a place.
But then moments of memory stab into perspective and I remember: I remember waking up to my breath frozen on the car windshield, stuffing my clothes in my warm sleeping bag, then trying to dress while still wrapped inside. I remember filling gallons of empty water containers, each simultaneously providing what I used to wash and to drink, and feeling the water run over my scalp and drip off the ends of my hair while I scrubbed it clean, trying to keep the drips from falling onto my toes. I remember flicking my headlamp on and reading, alone, in a black area of a black somewhere, hoping it was safe. And I remember sometimes turning on my computer to watch a downloaded show just so I could hear people's voices before falling asleep.
The wildness is gone; there are responsibilities now. During the wild time, I told myself I'd never live like this again — paying rent, paying bills, paying another for my life.
And now I do. There's comfort in it, and there's a painful longing in it, too. When I remember the wildness, I want to be back in my car and be free.
But is that loneliness any different than being in a place I don't know and that doesn't know me? Is it a worse loneliness than being in a place with people who could forget my name as easily as an item added as an afterthought to a grocery list?
I don't know. I don't allow myself to think of it much. I'm trying to take hold of this place and understand it. I hope in the process to find my place — where I belong — and create memories that keep me grounded. I want to look back and remember the people of this place, the way they hugged, and how the land comforted me.