On a dirt road behind acres of trees lies a house.
This house is one I have traveled to a multitude of times, yet I do not know it. Rooms I have never entered, cabinets I have never opened, the house seems to be a stranger.
Comfort is the complete opposite of what I feel when I am there. My normally over-talkative personality transforms into a quiet, reserved disposition. At times I would never stop talking, I stay mute, practically faking my whole identity.
Behind the house lies a creek. The path down the hill has seen copious footprints, and very few of them are mine. The walk that is taken to the creek is one I dread. Conversations I try my hardest to avoid are always brought up.
“How are things back in Michigan?”
Simple questions like these sprout many other conversations I have to have. Two-word answers are not enough; I am expected to go in-depth and tell every single detail about how my life has been the past seven months.
I am surrounded by many I have been around my whole life, but, somehow, they still feel like strangers. At this point, I know the drill. Say hello, hug, talk about school, stop. Because of these visits, I have learned how to listen. I have learned mannerisms to keep them talking so that the conversation does not fall back onto me.
During the week, I find comfort in subtly talking to my friends because I know that if it is obvious I am on my phone, I will be asked more questions.
“Who are you talking to? What’s going on?”
Privacy is not an option when I am in this house. It has been so long since I have been there; they don’t know me—and that partially falls on me. I avoid phone calls, and if I do pick up the phone, I tell the bare minimum. I could make these trips so much easier, but my mind does not allow me to open up.
The small moments I have to myself I cherish. I go to the bedroom earlier, and I stay in the room later. If I gather enough courage, I may even go visit the multitude of animals that surround the house.
Four dogs, six chickens, three horses, one cat.
I find myself feeling more comfortable in being near the animals rather than the people that inhabit the house. I know where everything is, what each drawer in the barn consists of, and the animals know me. They seem to know me better than anyone else there.
Finally, the day comes where it is all over. I say my goodbyes, acting like I am saddened to be leaving. They say their goodbyes, acting like it wasn’t the most awkward week ever. We express how we will miss each other, and then I get in the car. On the way to the airport, all the stress I have been holding on to is lifted. It is finally over.
Eventually, I open the door to the house I do know, filled with people who know me.