“Once there was a way to get back homeward”
I ask everyone I know what home means to them, but no one has a single answer for me. Cari tells me “familiar places and familiar faces make a place a home.” Li writes that “home is people. The people we love sincerely, with only the good parts of our hearts,” and my homesickness increases as I lay curled in my bed, phone clutched to my chest.
How does a person with so many houses not have a home? The closet of my apartment is full of my clothes and my shoes and my bags and books, but it’s not home. The walls are tacked with my posters and my photos of friends but a suitcase still sits in the corner, open and ready to be packed.
The closet of my dad’s apartment in Dallas holds nothing of mine; I’ve never left anything behind, never sure how soon I’d be returning or how long he’d be staying. The drawer-sized closet in my cupboard-sized room in Seoul was packed with two suitcases worth of things I had been sure I would crave. Many of the items squeezed in on that first night were tossed on my last, making room for the memories that I valued more.
The closet of my childhood home is overflowing with more of my clothes, my yearbooks, my dance costumes, my things. Everything is there. But I am not.
“Our residence is where we live, but our home is how we live.”
At my apartment in Pittsburgh, when the stress of writing a final paper or too many hours of making lattes and cappuccinos have me hiding in my room with the lights off wishing to be somewhere else; when the pang of missing everyone and everything hits all at once, I click play on the track “Gingers in Bikinis.”
I could have clicked “screamingwenches” or any of the other tracks recorded, posted and kept on Cari or Li’s online sound clouds. But I always choose “Gingers in Bikinis.”
Cari and Li’s voices, my Brit and my red-head, argue over the sound of the letter h and of aluminum; they laugh at the words Peggy Babcock, and I feel like I can breathe a little more.
I pull out a box of letters, photos, tickets and trinkets collected from The Mangchi Era; I flip through the ink-soaked pages of my journal and scatter the receipts across the floor. In the middle, I can breathe.
The time difference between the Mangchis means that our group chat room is flooded with voice messages and weird selfies and nonsensical banter that keep me company at every moment, of every day. At home, I’m rolling with laughter into a blanket taco on my bed while we relive the utterly embarrassing spill I took in front of one-hundred fans of our favorite band. Li’s infamous fall on the icy roads of Seoul only makes me laugh harder and for a moment, I’m back in Korea, in a café full of strangers, in a city I won’t call my own. And yet, I’m home.