Getting There

by Ian Kerstetter

i.

running my fingers through sand.

blink. breathe.

 

i am not in the high mountain desert. this

is a lake that is too big to see more than a blue blur of land on the other side: canada? michigan? i could google it, sure, but i won’t remember. this place hasn’t landed in my mental map yet. i am floating somewhere between yellowstone and boston

and i am running my hands through sands my ancestors could have walked, but i’m not quite sure where i am just yet.

 

i am still getting used to it.

still getting used to being around so many other queer people

getting used to living a block away from everything and a train away from anything.

 

there are seas smaller than what they name “lake” here.

 

ii.

the map here is hard to picture, there are no right angles.

only a sea and a city.

 

show me a mountain;

i will curl my back into its ridges

and not flat like architecture.

iii.

the birthday party in the storm helped.

sitting and giggling on the floor with my roommates helped.

buying brussels sprouts and green beans from a farmers’ market down the street and then cooking them and not messing it up

helped.

 

iv.

can i tell you my favorite moment of every day?

the moment i get off my train and walk out from the tunnels

and the gargoyles on the library are grimacing up at the towers, grown much higher than the gargoyles’ wings

and i am enveloped in the hum of downtown. something familiar. far less than deafening.

it is not home yet.

v.

living in a place where i can still count my footsteps,

i see people move with practiced ease,

and i remember how it feels to live in a familiar place:

driftwood.

smoothed by ceaseless motion,

marble floors rubbed raw.

you know how a muscle should work to open that door

and how a word should be shaped to say this.

what’s around the corner

where the street signs are

what languages you hear

what that noise means

how a cashier phrases a question

the difference between a tourist and student

where to look when passing a stranger on the street

how a leg should move and how a hand should twist up and around to board a train.

 

where east is.

vi.

i am running my fingers through the sand by Lake Michigan.

i can tell it’s the sand of a lake and not an ocean.

 

my world is gently crumbling,

ready to be remixed and remembered and reenter

the stream of trains and stairs and flowers and sirens,

 

but not just yet. i am not quite understood by this city yet.

when you live here, you have seeped into the city.

 

i am just beginning to steep.

i am finding out.

i am rubbing the sand smooth between my palms.

 

Photos by Ian Kerstetter