I didn’t know what to expect as the train hurtled me far into this western corner, but as my clumsy feet found themselves standing between your golden-ruffled grin and your freckle-kissed blue eyes, I suddenly found myself home.
This was not because any of these streets held any familiarity, and not because these crowds held any long-lost faces. I was home because I finally felt like there were no longer fault lines or hard edges or a squeezed fit: here, belonging felt effortless. With the pair of you beside me, this foreign city furled into a place where my name didn’t feel strange; I felt safe, and welcomed and loved.
And the feeling of home grew as every minute passed: as I made friends within your friends and shared in your smiles; as I learned your families’ names and revelled in their laughter; as I cooked and skipped and tripped beside you in each passing moment. And, for that, I could not begin to express my gratitude. For so long I had always felt content in half-hearted friendships and ill-fitting matches, and it was more than a blessing to taste the friendships I had longed for so long: to finally find a home when for so long I was trapped in empty streets and cul-de-sacs.
Because that’s the thing about home: it is far from bricks and mortar and a postcode. Home is knowing that your name is safe in someone’s mouth and home is no longer having to work. Home is no longer having to construct a perfect image. Home is reality and laughter and watching you wrestle your sister over photographs you’d rather left unseen.
And though train track wrenches us miles apart, I have never felt closer home. And though watching you hurtle far away, back into that western corner, heavied my heart like nothing else, I could not be happier. Because of you, and our entirely serendipitous friendships, I finally know that I belong.
(Photograph: Alamy, sourced via The Guardian)