Upon Leaving Berlin

Though I’m not leaving Berlin until very early tomorrow morning, I’ve packed my bag. I’m in that part of the transition: if it were a children’s slide, you’d be climbing the ladder, not quite yet to that place where you sit down, and get ready to take off. This morning, every step of the climb feels heavy.

This has been an odd year for me. For a year up until last July, I lived in a huge brownstone owned by the middle-aged children of a couple who had lived there for fifty-something years. The children had been born in the house itself, they’d grown up, left, the couple had carried on, the husband had gotten sick, the wife had cared for him, he’d died, she’d carried on, and then she’d died. All of their stuff was still in the house when I moved in with Maud, Scout, and Bodhi. (Maud decided to spend her last year in college living in the house, which was big bonus for me.) The couple’s waterbed was still full. The cabinets in the kitchen were filled with their dishes. But some of the ceilings were literally coming down, and there was years of piss on the floor in the master bath. Anyway, I lived there for a year, and friends came and went from all over the world. It was very otherworldly—like something out of an early Doris Lessing novel—but it worked.

When I left, I didn’t know where to go. Bodhi had died, Maud had gotten her own place, Scout was beginning to get sick. Rents in New York were not like they once were—you can’t really find a home there that’s more than a box, if you don’t have a lot of money. I don’t want to spend more than half my income to live in a box. So I’ve been living here and there on and off—crashing at Julia’s, crashing at L.B.’s, trying to figure out what to do.

The fact is that this little pad where I’ve spent the last twelve nights in Berlin has been as much a home as any I’ve crashed in for the last year. And because I’ve not been relying on the kindness of people who care about me to live here, there’s been a quality of “my-ness” to it that I’ve missed.

It is that quality of “my-ness,” though, I think, that might be tripping me up in trying to imagine myself putting down roots. Who am I anymore? What do I want (besides to practice, and write, and be happy)? My office is my computer; I could live anywhere. My colleagues are all over the world, sometimes in and out of retreat. I don’t even know who you are. You could be someone who googled “ladder,” and ended up here (hello and a warm welcome). After Scout dies, it will just be me, whoever that is.

I think I am a person climbing the ladder of a slide. I imagine that at some point I will get to the top, sit down, and push off. I am hoping that I will land, and that when I do, I will be home.