Make an igloo, light an orange

January 22

That evening the streets froze. A thin sheet of ice formed over stairs and sidewalks and banisters, people were falling all over the place in a seemingly Domino effect, feet and legs running ahead, the body and butt being too slow to follow and thus, splat, flat on the icy ground.

I was on the metro bus, on my way home from the second day of work, five thirty pm and dark as midnight. It was so warm and toasty inside the bus I wondered if I had to get off – could I not spend the entire night on the bus? Does it get to the final destination and then revert to the start, stuck in repeat? Would they kick me off once they realized I had no place to go. After all, buses are transitional places, you can’t really set camp on them. Maybe that’s why they don’t allow food or music on public transit here. They don’t want us getting too comfortable.

As much as I was missing (am still) home, I’m slowly getting back into routine. Sort of like remembering how to bike, it takes a while – except I don’t know how to bike. And whatever happened to my becoming stronger, fitter, and climbing a 5.9 wall goals? Well, they’re off visiting someone else for a while. I’m sure they’ll come back, I’ll let them in again and once they’ve unpacked and settled, I’ll take ‘em up again. Optimist, hopeful or just delusional?

It’s kind of like how when you start to cook for yourself, and your fingers burn too easily when you lift the pot off the stove – but slowly, the threshold rises and soon you get used to the heat and you can lift them pots and pans up easy. How long before my threshold for being away from my family and my fiancĂ© and paratha rolls rises and it can stop burning holes in my heart? Like an iron left on a t-shirt, or a cigarette you thought you’d extinguished but hadn’t.

The loneliness attacks like bats, encountered suddenly on an evening in a quiet park, it flaps darkly around my face and makes me want to run away, hide, or just sit down and cry.

But then I will think of the orange lights. What orange lights?

The orange lights that glow inside the square and rectangular windows of houses on streets, particularly in St Louis because that is where I am. The lights mean there is a family living inside the house, and they sit together on a table for dinner together and argue over little things, and there is a feeling of permanence. The kind of permanence that is comfortable and warm, not trite and horrifying in its infinity. The orange lights make me so wistful, and I miss home, and my mother, sisters, everyone, and of course, I miss you so much. And I know, technically, we have orange lights in our little house on Washington Blvd but it is not the same. I am grateful for our little house, of course but the ache is still there. And then I think of all the other people all over the world who don’t have – or even know of the joys of – these orange lights in windows and think: that’s why I’m here so far away from home. Learning, studying, trying to find ways to change the world, and hopefully light a few orange lamps for others.


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