Bone Deep

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
My bones belong on the East Coast. Or maybe they belong to it. Whatever the case, they certainly seem to think it’s the only proper place to be. Bones can think things like that, I suppose, even though they’re just tissue wrapped in calcium wrapped in meat. They must be able to think things since it’s the only explanation I have for the longing that lives under my skin. When I say it lives under my skin, I mean it. Thoughts come from brains. It’s a brain’s job to think things. Sad things. Happy things. In between things. The longing is a sad, bitter thing, but it doesn’t come from my brain. It doesn’t float down from the crown of my head like all my other thoughts do. The longing seeps up from pieces of tissue wrapped in calcium wrapped in meat and settles there. It bubbles and toils and troubles me. It reminds me that I don’t belong where I am because there’s someplace better. It lives under my skin. Even though skin is just a squishy sheet of organ, and nothing lives under it besides meat and bones. Meat and bones and longing.

I wish I could talk to my bones. Maybe then I’d understand them better. Or they’d understand me better. Maybe I could explain to them that their ridiculous longing is, well, ridiculous. “You’re not from New York,” I’d say, wagging my finger at my own skeleton. I think all I’d get in response is chattering teeth. Maybe it would sound a bit like laughter. Still, I’d try to tell my bones there’s no reason to long for the east coast of all places. That I’ve spent my entire life explaining, “I live in New York but I’m not from here. My family lives in Arizona. I’m from there,” to any poor soul who asked. The clattering, chattering teeth in my ear is definitely laughter the second time, because my bones were right all along.

Nobody I’ve met at college knows which New York I’m talking about when I say I’m from New York. The city is what excites people. They like the skyscrapers, I guess. But you can find those lots of place. Places a lot nicer than the city where I’m not from. My bones rolled out from under trees and over leaves and down hills into valleys. Through orchards and freeways and empty fields. Those things exist in the New York I’m from. Everyone still always asks if I’m from the city. If I was, my bones definitely wouldn’t belong there. New York City is just too-tall buildings and homeless beggars and smoggy skies. It’s not what I miss. It’s not what the longing longs for.

Utah is not New York. I think my bones knew it all along, but I’ve only just realized. It only took me a year. I walk around on campus and miss the deafening sound of wind blowing through bone-dry leaves. There just aren’t enough trees here to get the right volume. I watch pretty sunsets and resent the broad horizon offering me such a clear view. You can’t see that well in New York because the deafening trees are as tall and impenetrable as a fortress. I step outside into the chilly morning air and people watch, making a note that they’re all bundled up with hats and gloves and scarves. I look for the nearest apple orchard to go apple picking. I don’t even like apples all that much, but I loved going with my family in the fall. There’s a million other things and reasons and differences and I wish I had the time and emotional longevity to name them all.

I take it harder than I probably should that the leaves are quiet and the horizon is broad and there’s no one to take me apple picking. I take it harder than I probably should that I haven’t hugged my parents since last Christmas. I take it harder than I probably should that, amid talk of holiday breaks and finished semesters, going home feels like an “if” more than a “when”. I want it to be when, not if. But lots of people want lots of things and I’m not special just because I’m homesick. Even if being stuck here in Provo, Utah of all places feels more like a terminal illness.

My bones are restless. The skeleton living inside me is trying to escape and go back to its roots with or without the rest of me. I’d be willing to let it go, I think, if there were only another way for me to keep my head up without it.