At Cedar Island Camp for Young Dancers, I hold the record of the fastest charade guessed for "letters to home" in three point seven seconds. Attempting to execute a series of actions conveying the entirety of what home is at the age of twelve was an overwhelming task, so I impulsively mimed a familiar action we all practiced in the cabins every day almost as regularly as our rehearsals for Firebird: writing letters to our mothers. At the time, something about the idea of licking a stamp and sending it off to the address written on the envelope made it feel as if home was still there. (However, I now realize the action of sending letters is an obsessive and irrational ritual only a child away from home for the first time would practice, and the letters themselves could never capture the infinity of the essence of home.)

Eva shouted, "Letters!" and I placed my index finger on the side of my nose. I smiled and closed my eyes so I could see the kaleidoscope light through my eyelids. I clicked my heels together, There's no place like home, there's no place like home. I placed both hands over my heart. It felt like the best thing to do in the heat of the moment. Candy was at stake.

The gesture of the hands over the heart seemed to resonate with whatever the girls thought home was to them – they must have figured out some more concrete idea of the concept years before me – and Lenai popped up off the ground to scream, "Letters to home!"

Our team was announced the winner, and Mrs. Farrell walked up to me and asked, "Do you want to go home, Kasey?"

Managing a shy grimace as a response, I slipped away into the bodies of the girls on my team jumping around me and have managed to delay finding an answer to her question for years into my adulthood. After over a decade longer of being alive, I've decided that what was so perturbing about my first time away from home at Cedar Islands was that I realized my concept of home was limited to what I had experienced it to be. Finally leaving home made me question if I ever even understood what home is.

Did I find home in the oatmeal? Bear with me, because it's been over a decade since my time on the island, and I've never found any other oatmeal to be so comforting. So, is home what is comforting? It couldn't be, since I derived some form of comfort and concept of home from the action of writing letters. Then why did I not want to go home? Why did the action of going to a place called home worry me so? At home, my satchel was always packed with the necessities: my Nancy Drew sleuth guide, field journal, and enough piggy bank money to live off of Wendy's dollar menu specials. At twelve years old, we all want to run away from home, although don't we all still have that bag mentally packed?

Did I find home in the oatmeal?
It isn't that I have never felt any sort of love for the many places I have gone when someone says, "It's time to go home." As I become confident in staking a flag in the ground, claiming a space, finding myself accidentally saying on a drunk night out in a new suburb of the city, "Yeah, I'm going home," I find that along with this pleasant feeling of comfort, the same perturbing feeling of discomfort I found on the island sinks in. Any new space redefines my concept of what home is (or was) and any idea of home then changes entirely. Home morphs from a comforting embrace and turns to ashes like quicksand, slipping through my fingers and trailing away through the wind.

Even now, when so many profess a fond nostalgia of college, I must be entirely honest with my reader and confess I don't think an English degree has gotten me any closer to finding home. I'm made fun of for being an English major yet being tragically terrible at Scrabble, and I that I can never define words simply, ones even as simple as home. The Odyssey, a text we love to talk about in English classes at colleges, introduces the idea of homecoming and loyalty, or Penelope being a symbol of modernity if you're in a 'woke' class. If I were Penelope, I wouldn't have waited around an empty castle full of jerks even if the suitors were time capsule versions of Justin Timberlake, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio. I suppose, for Penelope, home is comfort, no matter how foreign her commandeered cathedral felt to her.

Tragic Briseis has a different idea of home in Ovid's Metamorphosis, writing in her letter to home, "The words you read come from stolen Briseis, an alien who has learned some Greek." Can Briseis can tell me if Lyrnessus, which epics and literature claim to be her home, is indeed still a home after it was raided by Achilles? It must be awfully isolating to be the inciting plot point for the start of the Iliad, but now that any possibility of a homecoming occurring is stolen from her, how does she find home? She does not. She learns to speak Greek like the aliens around her. Once we step away from something, through our new experiences, can we ever truly go back to what home was to us?

I thought I certainly had an idea of home when the mere power of the thought of returning to Manhattan my homecoming, my own beloved city drove my ambition to exist through a prolonged amount of time at the home address marked on my Kentucky State ID card. The sight of the city emerging from the thick, dense Jersey factory smog was the most beautiful, painful, and joyous sight I'd ever beholden. I hid my tears from my father as he drove northbound on 78, since if he saw them, he would understand I no longer called the house I was raised in home. Why can other people have a claim on what your home is? Are people, in fact, perhaps a way to define a home?
Once I was standing in my room, my home, I wasn't comforted from any sort of person around me. In fact, in this moment, the solitude was joyful. My orchid was now withered and dead on the windowsill, the cheap bottle of whisky next to a jar of coins still on the bottom shelf, my spare key still holding down a sticky note on the orange, hand-painted French cabinet. Although along with the familiarity of the space, I felt as if I had never been in a place so foreign. The time apart from this home made me a different person than when I'd left it; the sticky-note underneath the spare key rendered entirely useless. How can you call a place home if arriving in it you're asking yourself the question, "How did I get here?"

Months later on the New Years Eve of 2020, I found myself asking the same question. I'd somehow gone from sitting beside my orange cabinet sipping on the last of the cheap whisky and planning on using some of the coins in my jar to order pizza to standing in the VIP section of the second largest stage at the indoor warehouse rave in Bushwick listening to DJ John Digweed's deep house set. Surrounded by people, I found a strange comfort in the unfamiliarity of it all. Somewhere between the hours of midnight and six in the morning, I remember having the distinct thought that if I could have dinner with anyone living or dead it'd be Zadie Smith as I walked into a tunnel filled with golden light. I remember this thought so clearly because it was interrupted by a voice counting down to either freedom or midnight in 10… 9… 8… 7…

I found a home in the air with the female vocalist, moving my feet to the little dances inside of me. The vocalist had that same sort of comfort as kisses down the back of your neck, and I've searched for her flaming red hair and pale skin everywhere. She was isolated, she was away from the crowd. Her name wasn't listed on the set list. I've searched. She didn't have an identity, as Briseis no longer had an identity after being stolen from Lyrnessus. At the other end of the tunnel of light, the red-haired lady walked towards a glowing exit sign. Walking with her was a DJ dressed in religious Sikh robes and a turban. I could only assume they were walking into the ten-degree winter air with the intention to share a cigarette. I wanted to ask them if they felt free? They must know what home is if they are wanderers like me.

I found home above the throngs of sweaty humans that night (if you happen to be the woman who danced beside me in Chanel booties and gold kohl lined eyes who told me when I accidentally bumped into you, "You do you!" and you know who the red-haired vocalist is – I saw you talking to her at some point: let me know) when I somehow became isolated on a balcony looking out onto the main stage at a crowd of thousands all dancing to the, "You do you," rhythm. Here, I found comfort. I felt infinite. I found home in the mundane pulse teeming with flesh pressed feelings; impossible moments fleeting around the brink of existing. I saw a city stripped of ineffable gaudiness, since there were innumerable experiences to build a home.
I felt infinite. I found home in the mundane pulse teeming with flesh pressed feelings; impossible moments fleeting around the brink of existing. I saw a city stripped of ineffable gaudiness, since there were innumerable experiences to build a home.
Among the masses, there was no physical embodiment to home. We were all orphans. We were all like Brises, constantly having our home stripped from us as we grow and change. We were all children, like on Cedar Islands, building a new idea of home together. Here, we share kindred in the comfort that the possibilities of experience hide in places beyond our homes.

Tragically, here, I as soon as I feel at home, I understand home can never be permanent. Don't we all crave a new experience? Isn't it funny, that the more we experience, the more we define, and the less we have to experience? We build our comfortable palace. We build our homes and remain loyal to them as Penelope did. Despite how hard we may try, stagnancy is impossible, so therefore no home can ever be permanent. Nothing about the idea of the impermanence of home is comforting to me. It's invigorating.

I'm in another city at an upscale restaurant called Lolita and I'm starting to understand how a port town could work as a sort of home, since Briseis and Odysseus could travel to any home from the waters. I keep searching in the beat of the music because we're back 'In Da Club' but I can't find the, "You do you," chorus in my chattering friends. I contribute to the conversation by saying that I've never actually read the novel by Vladimir Nabokov, but I'm speaking Greek. Why could I find comfort in a crowd of strangers on New Year's Eve and yet surrounded with people so familiar and comforting to me, I felt so strange? I find in myself, somehow, a fear of comfort. Of permanence. Of home. Here, inside of Lolita, Odysseus putting off coming home to Penelope for twenty years seemed like less of a jack-ass to me.

I fascinated myself with the skulls decorating the walls of the Mexican tapas restaurant, wanting someone to understand what I've just realized, but I can't (without offending anyone as they misinterpret it for discomfort – as you can tell, I clearly have a difficult time explaining this idea of impermanence). So, I go outside, still feeling the bass vibrating the dock under my feet. I smoke five cigarettes. I do so to feel free but I can't, even in the negative degree windchill. It's been a little over a year since I saw the red-headed woman disappear into the tunnel of white light. My friends found me outside and smoking more cigarettes becomes comforting, but I still did not find home in the repeated action.

We stumble back to the hotel with the rough bedsheets. After ten minutes of walking, we realize we stumbled in the wrong direction and find ourselves at the train station. Why do I always feel a sense of what home could be in a place where I am a wanderer? Trust me for a moment, but in Book Nine of The Iliad, Odysseus and Achilles negotiate Briseis' return from Agamemnon, the king who raped Briseis and destroyed her home. Odysseus is the wanderer, Achilles the adventurer, but is Briseis the true hero? It's something to be a wanderer by choice. Although I feel as if it is something different altogether to be a wanderer in a series of events which are out of one's control. Home does not define who we are. Our experiences shape how we can build a home around us.
Could home have been in that hotel bed with rough sheets which reeked of menthol cigarettes? Or is home in the musty scent of a gifted hand-knit afghan blanket, or with a borrowed tear-stained t-shirt, or when Ivy – who didn't know my home at all – with a wink told me that the clear collins glass she just set on my podium wasn't water?

I built one home of many in an apartment that wasn't mine. The balcony provides me an escape when I remember this roof over my head is not infinite. I come to the balcony when I forget what I think I found home to be. Everchanging. On an afternoon where the sun hit the horizon at four in the afternoon, I was dripping wet from my shower, wrapped in a white towel. I smoked my cigarette in the twenty-degree twilight. On our neighbor's balcony, a shirtless man I don't recognize wearing only boxers steps out and lights a cigarette.

We make eye contact for a second. A pair of aliens who've learned some Greek. I can hear the whisper, "You do you," and I wonder if he can tell me who the female vocalist is. She is our freedom, our permission to make home what we desire, our reminder that a true homecoming can never be. Even if home remains permanent for a moment, you will never be the same coming back to it. I will never see the red-haired woman again, and if and when I do, my home now will not be what my home was then.

I somehow still hold the island charade record for "letters to home," even though I have no idea what home is. My idea of home residing inside a sealed envelope was never meant to be infinite. I want to shout across the Brooklyn rooftops to ask the man in the dotted boxer shorts if home is a metamorphosis, a constant transformation, an ever-changing way to feel free again? Instead, I nod my head at him and he nods back. This may be a new charade record I've won: "You do you," in one point seven seconds.
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