I was drifting, yes, but I had a trajectory. My mind was full of grids and vectors, my heart cautiously lightened with the hope of obtaining a new plan. I knew of a landing point where I might find that plan. It had been a deceptively short journey fueled only by the blind mechanical movements of my courageous legs, who brought me to the aircraft as I continued to assure myself that this time, I’d be able to figure it all out. A tangled swath of lank hair streamed away from my wind-burned face as I descended toward that world I had aimed for, the knuckles of my fingers dry and gnarled from clutching tight the whole way to my pathetic bursting bundles wrapped up in twine, those value-less yet indispensible things I must always carry with me. Cities jumped in and out of the mist as I descended. I held tight with numb hands to my bundles as the wind buffeted past and I descended. My mind inactive, everything on auto-pilot, ever in transit.
Upon touching down, I looked around to find a jumbled, empty version of the places I left, like a ransom note constructed of an entire town. Where I expected discovery, I find repetition . Where I expected challenge, I find tedium. I set myself afloat to find some slot in which to fit myself, but touching down here I find I’m just as confused as ever about which direction to take.
Welcome to Calais.
It’s not that I don’t like this town. There are some truly lovely parts of it, and it is filled to the brim with welcoming people and interesting history. My job is going fairly well. The teachers and students are nice enough to me, and to tell the truth they require a ludicrously small amount of work from me in exchange for my salary.
And it’s not that this place isn’t beautiful. The beauty of it is simply superficial when you are experiencing it alone. It all seems pointless when there’s no one to share it with. This whole time I’ve known that outside of songs, love is not all you need. I’ve known that women who depend on their relationships are weak, and that unless I want to be one of those weak women and regress the population, I’d better get independent, fast. And yet, coming here alone has made me realize how much of my new concept of “home” lives with Mark, and how much I want to return to that home. All I know about what I want to do with my life is that it involves him, which rules out a lot of possibilities I had previously considered. How annoying. I had expected more strength from myself. What bitter disappointment, then, to find that all this time I have been taking part in some dull, predictable love story.
The whole point of this “adventure” of mine was to stall for time. Time to figure out where my life should be going and experience to point me in the right direction. I was stalling for time in my job last year. I was stalling for time in the Peace Corps. I was stalling for time in college. My entire adult life is essentially one titanic effort to dodge that stupid, age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And so, with these new developments in what I do and don’t want in my life, I drift as aimlessly in France as I did in America, always subject to the whims and inconsistencies of the wind.
I don’t know what I should be or what I want to be. I don’t know what to do with this life that I’ve got. My only idea is to sit in tree tops and catch more of the thin, lacey sunlight that strains to find this city. You see, the sunlight you find here is not the same character you see in other parts of the world. In Phoenix, the sunlight hammers on you as you step outside, a solid presence binding you in a comforting, near-mummification of heat. In Denver, it dances and whirls elegantly around you, sparkling off lakes and city structures. But in Calais, it flutters down insubstantially, occasionally draping over the gray and forest green color palette of the city, only to slide off seconds later having warmed nothing at all. I want to sit on the highest branches of the tallest trees and gather it around me like gauze, like tule, so I can finally make something substantial of it. I want to forge the watery sunlight here into something brilliant and useful. I want to gather it all to make a bright and shining craft light enough to lift me back off the ground.