Friday, June 20, 2014

Counting the Constellations

"This is it," I said to my dad over the hum of the pool filter as we dipped our feet in blue-green water. We've both been dreading this moment. Tomorrow my father, my favorite person on the planet, leaves for Chicago. This Sunday, I leave for Pennsylvania, where in a few days I will depart for Massachusetts for a month-long internship. Then, three days later, I leave for Thailand. So this is the last time I'll see my dad for a while.
 
Not that we haven't gotten used to this. For the past three years, I've been living up north, going to school and visiting Memphis on Christmas and summer holidays. But this time it feels much more permanent. I know it isn't so; I know I'll only be in Thailand for a year (at least). But I'm going so far away.
 
Now is the moment when I need to tell myself to take the plunge. You can do this, Melanie. You want to do this. It seems like every time I come back home, I grow more comfortable here. Yet at the same time, I've been getting very antsy. I feel misplaced, though I'm very happy to see my family. I can't get over the unease and unrest of staying at home, no matter how hard I try. Maybe I was meant to wander.
 
I thought about this as I looked up at the black sky above our chlorinated pool. I thought of my stay in Sde Boker with some of my class from Ben-Gurion University in Israel. We had become temporary refugees in the small kibbutz town after fleeing the city two Novembers ago. Then, like now, I felt trapped and claustrophobic.     
 
Yet I remember how infinite and limitless I felt when we walked to the edge of town after supper in the neighborhood cantine. We sat upon sand dunes and looked down into the massive caverns below and beyond: the craters of the Negev, blue and black under the bright moonlight. Shoshana played guitar. I looked up at the stars in the heavens. "Where is the big dipper?" I asked. "Here. And look! There's Orion's Belt." Together we named constellations and made up names for the ones we couldn't guess. We sang songs, passed cigarettes, laughed and joked and commiserated about the bizarre turns of fate that brought us together, trapped tourists in the desert. There we were, in the middle of a war that wasn't ours, yet suddenly caring so much about the outcome. With all that chaos going on beyond our reach, I felt strangely comforted knowing that, for everyone in the world, the constellations were the same.
 
I felt this now, talking with my father in the pool, looking up at the constellations. I see the Big Dipper. And Orion's Belt. And I know I will be okay.

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