Last night, over ginger tea and chapati bread a friend asks me why I am always packing and leaving. I could blame it on my father’s stillness, my mother’s disappointments, the unforgiving past but I tell her that I am searching for a part of me that I haven’t found yet. Perhaps I never found a reason to stay.
I soak bread in tea and listen to my friend tell childhood stories about her favorite city in Virginia. About the time she ate french fries drenched in ketchup in the park with her father after running through the Shenandoah Hills surrounding fields unkempt and wide as if they had been forgotten for years.
She asks me what my favorite cities are.
I stare at a pen marked torn map I found in an empty closet when I was sixteen. I think long and hard and tell her it is difficult for me to choose. It is not the place but the people and memories I associate with it. For example, I love Sudan in the spring of 1994 waking up to the sound of my grandmother boiling water over the stove and listening to Oum Kalthoum and Riyadh in 1999 when my mother places my ear on her belly and tells me to listen, it was my baby sister’s heartbeat. I love a small town in Tanzania called Bagamoyo in the summer of 2012 when I stayed up watching the sunrise, fishermen nets, and rods and traps sailing into the ocean and drinking fresh coconut water and London in July at 2AM riding the tube with strangers engaging in life-altering conversations in a different language. I love D.C. at night in the early autumn following an evening shower, when the moon glowing and leafs gently fall from trees on the concrete streets and the air cool and crisp with the smell of freshly cut grass. I book a last-minute flight to visit Sudan and Kenya this summer. I stare at my empty suitcase attempting to pack while simultaneously unpacking my emotions. There has always been an overwhelming urge for me to leave, explore, gain a new perspective. I love the idea of arriving to a new destination, a sense of excitement, curiosity and energy. Tonight, I realize that I've become too comfortable in leaving. Too comfortable in walking away. There is a part of me that does not know the meaning of stay. 'The only thing more unthinkable than leaving is staying. The only thing more impossible than staying is leaving. I don’t want to destroy anything or anyone. I just want to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any noise or consequences, and then not stop running until I reach a place I can call home.' A place that is all the reasons for me to stay.