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The atmosphere in the airplane is stifling; it tastes like hospital air, full of chemicals and germs and other people’s breath. I want to sleep but sleep won’t come, my back too cramped and tight, my legs twitching from my walk yesterday, my belly grumbling. Too much coffee with no food, then orange juice, all acid and slosh.

I have decided that I hate airplanes. I hate the unreality of them, the distortion of distance, so that it takes as long to get from the East coast to the West as it does to drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles. When I took the train home, it was like the country was unfolding in front of me, unzipped by the train tracks, the engine slicing through like a letter opener, a seam ripper, flaying the land and spreading it wide on either side of the tracks. We went from the tight, thin-lipped cities of the northeast to the West, the West like a dream, opening and opening, prairie and field, and finally the ocean, wide and forever. In an airplane, you just change from little squares to bigger squares, or squares of different color, a patchwork of town and farm and hill. There is a grandeur to the contours of mountain ranges seen from above, but not the same grandeur of mountain ranges passed through on the ground.

I feel like my flesh is decaying as I sit here, the growl of the engines vibrating in my blood, the smell of bad coffee and hidden fear sharp in the air. But I am going home.

Home, I heard once from somebody, is where when you show up, they have to let you in. Home is important to me: It is lasagna and Christmas Eve and the skittering sound of dogs’ toenails on the hardwood floor in the morning. Home has a certain smell, of dish soap and candle wax and horses, of pine trees and fog. Home is ocean and my sister’s hair in the sink. And after three months away, I find I miss it dearly.

I didn’t really expect to, not so much as I do. Living at home again after having been on my own for a few years was harrowing; my family and I get along remarkably well, but it’s hard to submit to parental control once you’ve been free from it. Unsurprisingly, I find that my relationship to my parents improves drastically just as soon as I move away from home. Once I’m on my own, we return to civil discourse.

In fact, these days my relationship with my parents is becoming markedly mature. My mother and I hardly speak like mother and daughter any more; the similarity is far closer to two women friends, just chatting. I tell her about my love life with alarmingly few details omitted, and she gives me advice which I feel free to ignore. All in all we get along splendidly.

I am therefore a little nervous to go home, for all I eagerly anticipate it. Will the newfound accord between us find physical proximity to be to its detriment? Or perhaps a holiday weekend is not long enough to erode it, and we’ll be fine.

It will be good to see my siblings, and the old, old friends who are in town. It will be wonderful to abandon the stress of trying to make friends, meet people, find connections, and just relax into the reflexive understanding that ten years of friendship can bring. To know that I’ve known these people for enough time now that they’ve long discovered that I’m glass and fragile, that they’ve long adjusted their eyes to my light and lack thereof. And: family is family. My parents loved me when I was just a burbling mass of poop and toes and curly hair; there’s no reason to think that they’re fooled by the elaborate maskings I’ve created since then.

The airplane, though hateful, is worth my while. Plus, it gives me a chance to write with pretty much nothing to distract me. No internet, no phone calls, nothing to clean or cook or eat, I don’t much want a conversation with the people next to me, so I might as well see if I can’t get four thousand words out while I’m sitting here, because once I get home (home!) I know I won’t want to spend too much time writing.

I wonder how my relationship with food will survive Thanksgiving. It is certainly my favorite holiday: A time for family, gathering, preparing a meal. It is a return to the sanctity that I believe food should always have, a center place in the family structure, an acknowledgment of ties to each other and to the earth. I am glad that we have designated at least this one day a year to really pay attention to our eating, to our loved ones, and to all that we have to be grateful for.

The history of it is fucked, I know. The likelihood that the pretty story about feather-headdressed Indians and Pilgrims with shoe buckles on their hats sitting down at a big long picnic bench to share turkey and cranberry sauce is true, quite frankly is slim to none. I’m prepared to believe that the natives helped the Pilgrims survive their first winter (how were they to know the payback would be genocide?), and that the Pilgrims had a whole lot to be thankful for. Perhaps even that they shared a meal. But the picture we paint about brotherhood, generosity, and peaceful coexistence, I’m afraid is just a salve for our national bad conscience.

Nonetheless: A good holiday, taken with a grain of salt. A good excuse to get together and think about all that with which we are blessed. So perhaps I need to just let it be, forget about the fat and all in truth, just be thankful that I have food to eat and a family with which to eat it, a home in which to eat it, resources that allow me to fly there for the weekend and people who want to see me.

No, I suppose I really shouldn’t worry about how much I’m going to eat, at all. Just take the blessings, and the sweet potatoes, as they come.

I am trying, trying, reaching for the goal of honesty. The image I cling to is that of a girl who is not like the other girls, who eats what she wants and fucks when she feels like it, who doesn’t bother with the stupid things that other girls worry about (I don’t know what those are. Blow-drying hair, maybe.) And those things are essentially true: I don’t usually worry much about food, I do tend to initiate sex, and I don’t blow-dry my hair. But I wonder how much of that is just because I built it into my idea of self. One thing I didn’t figure out during my big arduous conversation with my friend the other night is that I am uncomfortable being pursued. I like to be in charge of that dynamic, I like to be the aggressive one, the more forward, the more direct. If he – any he, even any she – comes up to me saying, I want to sleep with you, I will cast my eyes away, stumble my words, make excuses and back away. On the other hand, I love to be the one who looks him in the eye and suggests he buys me a drink, or gives me this dance, or takes me to dinner. Am I just afraid that if I’m not the active one, it will get out of my control? I suppose there is a deeper fear of men there, a fear of being taken advantage of, a fear that my intonation and the twitch of my hips will promise me to more than I am willing to give.

Perhaps I should just stop flirting so damn much, and I won’t have to worry about being dragged into the bar bathroom against my will. I should be honest with my discomfort when I am at the bar in the first place, and maybe just not go.

But but but, screams my little mind. But! But then you won’t meet people, but then you won’t seem – what? cool, I suppose – but then you’ll be that girl who stays at home and reads instead of going out the bar and I know (screams the little mind) I know you don’t want to be her anymore, not again, I know you want to be that girl who drinks the boys under the table, instead. And I do. And sometimes I am, if the boys and the table are right, but I need to be able to be the girl who stays home sometimes, too. And I need to trust that the people I really want to spend my time with will want to be friends with that girl as much as they want to be friends with the girl who does go out to the bar, and flirts and drinks and feels acutely uncomfortable the whole time.

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