Days 142-149 Semi-Home, Sweet Semi-Home

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I’ve spent a week in Philadelphia, the city I so often romanticized about on those cold, lonely nights in the desert. A place of mental refuge, an idealized city remembered only fondly in my mind. As I approached the Platt Bridge, my gateway to reunion, I was forced to take a shuttle over as it was undergoing construction. A man named Al pulled up in a red pickup, threw my gear in the backseat and told me to hop in. As we reached the peak of the bridge I could see the city skyline. The same skyline I hadn’t seen in almost a year. I’ve seen many on this trip, but not a single one evoked as much intensity and emotion as this. My eyes began to sweat. Al turned to me and said with a smile “There ain’t nothing like home.” I took a deep breath, looked at him, and nodded my head in agreement. At that moment in time, I had no words.

As I rode down the South Philly streets to reach Scott’s house, I pedaled faster than ever before. Scott traveled with me the entire length of this journey. He was always there with words of encouragement or to simply listen to me complain on the phone. When he opened the door to let me in, we said nothing to each other. We simply hugged in the street. A long overdue hug. The kind of hug that calms you down, transcends time, and lets you feel like everything is going to be alright. Danielle (Scott’s girlfriend) and I did the same. Seeing their smiling faces on a sunny afternoon in South Philadelphia was a memory that will forever be engrained in my mind.

My visit to Philadelphia was not about seeing landmarks or strolling down famous streets. No the purpose of this visit was to rekindle old friendships and reinforce the deterioration of others. I started with Scott and Danielle. All I ever wanted was for all my friends to be together in a room to sit a rest. To be together. I soon realized how foolish that was. A lot happens in 10 months. Understanding that certain friends no longer hang out nor even communicate taught me that life moves on with or without you. I became riddled with anxiety. There were going to be many reunions with people that will not be as comfortable as Scott and Danielle’s. With them it felt like I was in Philadelphia last week. I felt like no time had passed at all between us. Nothing had changed. It felt natural. Being around these old familiar friends allowed me to appreciate the extent of our relationships. So many people have come and gone, but they remained constant. To finally have them in a huggable distance from me was a true point of fulfillment.

There were two things I wanted to do in Philadelphia: See all my friends and see my cats. I carried a picture of Brandon and Rafiki across these great states so as to expose this country to their wonder. To know that I was finally going to hold them in my arms was an unbelievable feeling. But the only way I could do so was to see Marisa. I knew it’d be difficult. Our relationship was a complicated one. The last time I was in that apartment, I was dropping off the key. The place I called home with her for a year was my next destination. I took the same route I used to take from my job in Center City. I struggled all week to try and think of the right word to describe the feeling I had on that ride, but the only one that kept coming up was ‘weird’. Marisa greeted me at the door. This encounter was yet another scenario I played out in my head a thousand times on the road. It felt artificial, forced, anti-climactic. As we walked up the stairs to the apartment, I hoped my encounter with the cats wouldn’t produce the same feelings. They did. I assumed that when she opened the door, they would come running towards me and leap into my arms. They just sat there staring at me with the same blank expression I mirrored back to them. Then I reminded myself “oh yeah they’re cats”. I played with them for a few minutes, but my focus rested entirely on all the things in the apartment. She is now living with her current boyfriend. All of his belongings now rest in the same spots that mine used to. Literally down to the same picture frame. The same one that once harbored a picture of me now contains a picture of this mystery person I’ve never met. It was difficult to see how seemingly easily I was replaced. I can’t tell what I’m more jealous of; the fact that she found someone with whom to begin another relationship with, or the fact that she found someone first. There was no longevity to all the brief affairs I had on the road. While I tried to convince myself otherwise, I knew I was only deceiving myself. Being in that apartment was not easy. Trying to maintain a conversation with Marisa was even more of a challenge. Everything felt so forced. So tense. We both wanted out. Why didn’t I just leave? Probably because there was still so much to be said. But I didn’t say anything. We just sat there and stared at these two cats. Then Rafiki walked up to me and rested her paw on my knee. I missed them. I missed all three of them.

I left Marisa’s and biked home in the rain. It seemed like fitting weather. All this time I assumed that when I reached Philadelphia, it’d be all figured out for me. I’d know what steps to take next. But here I stood in the rain, staring at the skyscrapers piercing through the dense fog. The city was cold and uninviting. There are so many people I feel I need to see. So many conversations I feel I need to have. But almost none of them occurred. I felt spread so thin. I felt overwhelmed.

I shouldn’t paint such a somber picture of my experience in Philadelphia. I had some amazing times catching up friends. It was just kind of jarring to see where everyone is and where they’re all headed. Everyone has changed. But I’ve changed too. So why should I expect anything less from my friends? Part of me wants to stay in this city, and another wants nothing more than to leave. I have 140 miles until I reach 10,000. I’m trying to refrain from putting any pressure on those 140 miles. But the luxury of simply avoiding a conflict and biking away is dwindling. These old cracked roads stayed the same. The energy and the mentality of the city are still very much intact. It’s just the people. I foolishly assumed they’d remain the same too. Yeah Al, there sure ain’t nothing like home, but I don’t think this is mine.

Stats:

Day 142

Miles: 91.49

Time: 8:15:09

Calories: 4337

Total Ascent: 4153 ft.

Day 143

Miles: 24.79

Time: 2:11:49

Calories: 1094

Total Ascent: 738 ft.

Riding Through Philadelphia:

Miles: 24.33

Time: 2:25:35

Calories: 1033

Total Ascent: 1227 ft.

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5 responses to “Days 142-149 Semi-Home, Sweet Semi-Home

  1. This may be somewhat pretentious of me, but I dreaded your “coming home” post, just for the reasons and feelings you wrote. Of course things don’t stay the same. I think we find comfort and a sense of self worth when we imagine people can not carry on or grow without us there. But do you think that maybe, it’s not they who have changed so much but YOU who has changed? Maybe it scares you because you know after this past year you could never go back to that life? The beginning of the trip you always had that “comfort” in the back of your mind. You could envision your old life being there when you struggled with your new self and uncertainties. You could rely on that “comfort” if you felt that you had failed in some way. I think the sweating and anxiety hit you big time because that is when reality hit you square in the face and you realized it isn’t the same, won’t be the same and never will be the same. How could it?! You have experienced and lived a life this past year that most people wouldn’t experience in a life time. You may not know where your going yet, but I think you do know you can’t go back. How exciting!

  2. So very well said, ratdigger. I just turned 59 years old…. I, too, have learned that “home” travels within us. We can’t escape its unresolved issues nor can we avoid them by time and distance. Issues that were present when we left the physical location of “home” will be there when we return…unless we have dealt with the issues in a literal sense. They will not go away on their own. We must personally put them to rest. Upon returning our perspective will have changed even if what we left has remained exactly the same. We must take time to respond in the present tense… while the newest experiences of the past catch up within our minds.

  3. Tom, thanks for letting us in on your most inner world. You have been living in your own world for the most part, so re-entry to the world of the other people will be an adventure of another kind. Congratulations on your journey. BTW 10,000 is just a number…nothing more… ” I rode approx 10,000 miles” will suffice for all people, except perhaps engineers. Let go of that last compulsion.

  4. Welcome home Tommy. Your neighbors & your parents haven’t changed, and no matter how much you’ve seen of the world and relied upon your strength to cover those 10,000 miles, I think that you probably are the same person as when you left, except that you’ve honed your survival instincts, as well as your ability to evaluate situations, including personalities.
    I’ve traveled around the world, from European countries to Hawaii, and most of the States, meeting people of all kinds, discussing our beliefs/views and sharing bits of each others’ lives.
    You will find, upon returning here, that nothing can compare to the love and concern that your family has for you. I’ve never discussed that with your family, but having known them since they got married, I know
    what they feel for their children, and I’m sure they will be thrilled to hug you once again.
    Those whom you mentioned as having gone on with their lives so easily, were probably never your true friends to begin with.
    Again, welcome home!

  5. Cycling is the easy part of it all, the pain the sweat and the tears are all passive and forgetfull, scars and memories keep well! and remind of our mortality and humanity, Well done on your journey dude 😀 super stocked for you.

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