The First Stop Along the Way

I get off the bus and breathe fresh air for the first time in hours, but I’ve arrived.

Atlanta, Georgia.

Even breathing feels like love.

I am carrying the weight of three bags that bear all in life that is practical but also that which keeps my soul alive. Even carrying all of it with sweat trickling down my back in the humidity feels like love.

I ride the train, feeling a tinge of guilt for everything that I carry that takes up space, but find myself surprised when people apologize for bumping into me. There’s a comfortable space, a hum of chatter, and soon it fades behind me as I step off the train into a different bustle.

“Is this Oakland Park?!” I yell over the hums.

“Yeah! You in the right place!” A voice yells in passing before I get to thank the source.

I’m staring at the landscape and my GPS. My destination is too far and I have to call for a Lyft. As lightning cracks overhead, I hurriedly press the buttons and look up to the dense, gray clouds. I quickly run as much as the weight of my bags allows me and hide under a tree.

The dots of sweat at my back have become small streams that pour down the divots in the small of my back and I suddenly feel a familiar prickle of nervousness that I won’t be found in time. Everything in front of me washes that away, even as the raindrops fall on my head. Small ones. Ones that I don’t have to be concerned about… yet.

The Lyft calls me because he can’t find me, and I apologize for my vague directions. I have no idea where I technically am, but I describe the bus station and the house I see.

I breathe in relief when I’m found.

The older man tells me that I should stand by the station and not the street. He’s not irritated, but rather fatherly as he genuinely wants to help me. I apologize as I unceremoniously chuck my bags in the back of the car.

We talk along the way about me coming to Atlanta. I talk about my excitement.

The ride is short.

Soon, I’m dropped in front of my friend’s place. It’s changed from when I last saw it. She bought a house and it’s more cleaned up and put together. The door is bright red. The porch is swept and has furniture. The old lock is replaced with a keypad.

I reach the porch just in time for the rain behind me to crescendo in an intense chorus of drumming.

I have found my way and it feels like love.

Sighing in relief, I punch the numbers into the keypad and step through the threshold.

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