I spent the bulk of my last session with Andrea crying about missing Pablo because Pablo feels like home. The more I explained the feeling of missing Pablo, the more I broke down (uncontrollably, I might add). Sort of like when I realized I’m leaking pee a little too much and had to mortifyingly meet with my OB to discuss this loss of bladder, which led to a pelvic floor physical therapy referral, as if I don’t have enough on my plate already. The muscles weaken, giving way to grief. I can’t. Hold it in. I try for a few minutes, like when I knew I should have stopped at the exit I just passed to go, but instead I keep driving. And I try to act like I will be fine. I can hold it together. And I remember the way I prefaced the introduction to myself with, “I don’t cry.” When I remember this, I start dabbing drips of tears and snot with my sweater. But soon it’s too much and getting gross and how many times do I have to tell my son not to wipe his snotty nose on his sleeve? I think in my head as loudly as if I were saying it aloud, “Fuck it,” as I reach for a tissue.
Andrea kept asking, “Why does Pablo feel like home?” And I couldn’t articulate with my spoken words what it was that equated Pablo with a sense of home. I referred more to feelings and was a bit repetitive with repeating, “Pablo just feels like home. And nothing else will ever feel like home again.” Andrea told me, “It might be interesting to spend some time writing about what home is.” I’ve spent a lot of time driving over the weekend. As I drove, it came to me in pieces what home is. Home is what we know. Home is what we are used to. The rest of my thought process got stuck, circling like coins in the dryer of my brain and I remember thinking how I wish my fingers were on a keyboard rather than a steering wheel.
I got extremely sick immediately following my trip to Colombia with Noel. At first, I thought it was food poisoning, but when my sister, mom, Andres, and Alessandra all dropped one by one with the same symptoms, I realized it was something viral. Noel started to tease me, calling me typhoid Mary. It was in the thick of my sickness when I sobbed the hardest for Pablo. I wanted him to cover me in a blanket and bring me chicken noodle soup and medicine. When I told Denise how I begged Pablo to let me come home, she was concerned and puzzled. When I told her later how sick I was she called me, a lightbulb going off in her head that had not gone off in mine. “Of course, you want Pablo right now! When we’re sick, we just want our moms, or whoever represents that nurturing person, to take care of us.” I wanted to be in the house that feels like home with the man I married who feels like home because that’s what I know to be home.
It didn’t matter how unpredictable my mother was. Before Pablo, when I was sick, I needed my mom. I even remember getting sick as a college student living away from home and coming home to lie on my mother’s couch, where I let her drape a blanket over me and feel my forehead the way she used to when I was a child. She slipped back into her old role as well, even retrieving the cream-colored puke bowl that has always been there in the corner cupboard on Kingston street. No one wants to be sick in someone else’s house. No one wants to be cared for by someone other than a mother, or whatever manifestation of mother came through time and the way home twists from the places we’ve come from to the places we are. With Pablo it’s the way he mixes the Theraflu and adds honey and lemon juice. It’s the way he says, “I’m sorry you’re sick, baby,” while kissing my forehead. It’s the way he runs out for soup and cuts up fruit and the way he warns me about how hot the tea is. This time around, I don’t want my mother to feel for the fever I already know I have or to place the familiar puke bowl on the floor beneath me. I just want Pablo to heat the water to scalding, because that’s the way he does it. I want Pablo to warn me about how hot it is, even though I already know it’s too hot. I want to chug the steaming tea in desperate gulps as it burns off the top layer of skin from my tongue to my throat to my stomach. Perhaps then, a blistered version of me would settle in, ever so comfortably uncomfortable.
Growing up, my friends didn’t want to come over to my house because they were afraid of my mom. I remember being uneasy not knowing when she would snap, but that she would. And there was predictability to the unpredictability. Volatility was certain and that was safe even though it was scary. I think if I had come home one day and my mother would have been suddenly happy and calm and new, I would have been uneasy because that’s not the way I know home to be. What is she hiding? What trick is she playing? Where is my mother—the one who is home? I wouldn’t have wanted her to be swallowed, even were it swallowed by tranquility. If I were going down a winding hall in reverse, the way Coraline did, I would have had the same reaction to a tranquil mother as she had had to a scary mother. The feeling of, “You’re not my mom,” would still tighten in my chest, even if the change was for the better. You’re not my mother, Noel. You’re not home, Tom.
I understand in watching my thoughts surface that I need to reinvent my definition of home. Logically, it is clear how I need to make a safe place with stable people and a good routine. But none of that feels like home. And if I force this stable, healthier ground to build my house upon, will I ever want to crawl under the covers there when I’m sick? Or will I keep sobbing to go back to my real home forever? My heart beats too quickly imagining a world where I’m not in trouble and there’s no storm, only settled dust. My breathing becomes too unsteady when I try to force this safe definition of home to actually feel safe. It’s like fitting a square peg into a round hole. I want Pablo to remind me why I’m failing and how much I need him to fix what I have ruined. I want him to take care of me. I want him to say, “You’re so lucky I gave you another chance” and “You would be nothing without me.” Because that is my identity. That is the answer to what home is. I’m a Taraxacum blowing haphazardly in the wind, white wispy particles too scared to make a wish. I take a deep breath and blow, wishing for Pablo’s vacuum arms to suck me in and swallow me whole, or in pieces. I am in the fruit bearing stage of my dandelion growth, yet I’m too scared to bear fruit. So instead I freefall into my husband’s womb. Are you my mother?
When I wake up, I have to tread once again down the slinky metal hallway back to my real parents—lost in transition.