A city can be so close,
that it leaches into one’s soul,
becomes a second skin.
So said the country-drawled guest
on Sunday afternoon talk radio.
Tulsa was his skin;
he wore it proudly,
bragged about it,
hoped to die there and stay for eternity
(an eternal Tulsa...something to contemplate.).
I’ve known many people over the years
who have taken in
the soul and guts of a place.
(New York City and Austin
apparently make for good skin.).
Not so for me.
I don’t have that skin.
I’ve never taken on the soul of a place,
not even the Dallas of my childhood
or the city in Oklahoma where I’ve lived
for more than two decades,
a third of my life.
I’ve given this a lot of thought
since the Tulsa man:
I’ve come to the conclusion
that the missing component,
the reason I don’t have a home,
often of my own making.
Grief, conflict, and anger
have often been the driving forces
behind and under and around
my leaving this place for that one.
Moving is my modus operandi.
Leaving is never a problem;
it’s relief, a voluntary homelessness.
The space between here and there
with everything I own stashed in my car
is high freedom,
the leaving of one life,
rolling toward another,
time and air and the radio between.
Okay, I’ll come clean...
I do have an internalized city
where I may have once had skin.
I found it in 1983 in Kyoto,
while sitting on the steps
of the viewing veranda at Ryoan-ji,
the “Temple of the Dragon at Peace,"
contemplating the 15th century garden’s fifteen stones,
but only being able to see fourteen
because I hadn’t yet achieved enlightenment,
wandering through the dappled-light bamboo grove
surrounding the centuries-old monastery cemetery.
I knew I’d been there before,
my ashes buried beneath one of the stones,
cradled by bamboo roots.
I almost believe in reincarnation,
the living of another life
behind the one I currently inhabit.
As I understand it,
my now-life is based on my then-life.
I hope I lived well and kind in those lives.
I must have done something right;
I didn’t return as a dung beetle
rolling around Oklahoma City.