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Where We Land

by Dina L. Relles

You moved to the city to look for the rest of your life, expecting to find it along the riverbank or in a midtown elevator or maybe sitting around the Laundromat on a Saturday afternoon.

You’d peer into lamplit living rooms on navy nights. Free-refill at the corner coffee shop for hours. Sit on your stoop. Stay out till morning. Kiss your coworker in the basement of a bar. Wake in strange arms on the east side of town.

You imagine a life with the man to your left on the evening train. Your legs touch. The rhythm of his breathing becomes familiar. You’ve lived off Seventh Avenue long enough to be lonely.

You once read that the Hebrew word for “bewilderment” is also Arabic for “to love him.”

Years ago, you dated a pilot, and the two of you would drive his old VW to the small airfield ten miles down the road. You’d take off in the two-seater prop and circle the Providence skyline, climbing higher still until you could no longer tell a house from a car or person. Until the tiny specks all looked the same. Through the headset mic, he’d talk about flying—you don’t remember much about the roll or the yaw or the angle of bank. But once he said, Landings are the hardest part. This you remember.

Years later, you’ll live in a place where people still smoke and call each other on the phone. At night, you dream of old love and your days are spent among strangers. The next-door neighbor—his gait? the tilt of his chin?—reminds you of the pilot. You’ll leave nothing behind.

Planes weren’t meant to hover in midair. It takes far more work to stay in one place than it does to move forward.

You sit at the local creamery between your oldest son and your daughter with hair the color of parchment, watching the cars along Route 100, wondering about the people passing by, the ones who stay.

Author's Note

This piece started while I was eating ice cream with my kids at a roadside sweet shop early in summer, and as the cars whizzed by, I thought: home is just a stop off the highway where you happen to stay awhile. There’s a strange serendipity to where we choose to stand still.

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