(be)coming Home: an October break story

Illustrated by Emily Cai

Around noon on the Wednesday of October break, I stepped into Grand Central Station for the first time, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed and ultimately terrified. Fortunately for my pounding heart, my roommate (a Staten Island native) greeted me within moments of my emergence from the humid underground train station, taking me by the arm like a mother gathering her child at a shopping mall lost-and-found.

Our two days together flew by in a whirlwind of tiny cafés and expensive coffee, hidden museums and artwork on every street corner. I was, by all measures, a public transportation rookie, so she became my tour guide and guardian, shepherding me from bus to ferry to subway to bus again. This was no typical tour of the city sights; rather, she showed me her old commute to school in Manhattan, the cafés where she developed her caffeine addiction, the bookstores where she spent hours discovering her love of learning, and all the other hideaways that formed a piece of her identity. It was less a tour of the city, and more a tour of her life.

The most beautiful moments of the trip came when we were simply walking side-by-side. We shared headphones as we strolled through Tribeca, Soho, Greenwich, and every other neighborhood whose names felt foreign on my tongue, our little bubble of music shielding us from the voices of leering men on the street. We were untouchable. 

Existing in New York City together allowed me to see her truest form, showing me why she has that radiant sense of freedom and shamelessness; in the city, nobody cares if others are watching you. We danced as we walked, we sang and we laughed, paying no attention to the strangers around us. She showed me what it meant to be truly unapologetic. It was intoxicating.

On the final night of the trip, in the dim light of her computer screen, she told me that I was officially infused into her concept of home.  Some combination of my presence in her old bedroom, my footsteps on the streets she used to walk, my voice echoing in the buildings she used to explore, had brought together her two worlds. I couldn’t put words to the overwhelming gratitude I felt in that moment, so I mostly stammered my way around some unintelligible form of “thank you.” It was gratitude for my place in her life, and also gratitude for the realization that if I could become a piece of home for another, I could certainly create a home wherever I find myself. 

Our trip taught me that both concepts of home can coexist—the old and the new, the here and the there, the before and the after. The edges blur. And now, back on campus, I’m a little more comfortable replacing “I’m headed to the suite” with “I’m headed home.”

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