Skylark on moor —
Sweet song
of non-attachment

Smell of autumn —
heart longs for
the four mat room

~ Basho

Sunset slowly falls on the red rooftops and the tranquil hills of Lisbon. I can see pink, orange, and red underneath a deepening blue as it does; there’s a dove cooing somewhere nearby, and a seagull cuts its way across sky.

I go for a short walk around the block, looking for a man smoking a cigarette. I find her in a knot of well dressed diners outside the small cafe where I had lunch, and make a bemused and desperate expression with my face, flicking an imaginary lighter with my thumb. “Lume?”, I mumble, my rehearsed line unravelling under a human gaze. Lit, I walk down a new road, semi-confident that if I turn right twice, I’ll get somewhere I know.

I want it two ways, too; attachment, and non-attachment. To travel, and to stay. So, for what seems the first time, I’ve made a compromise with myself. I didn’t move out the way I moved in. Instead, I swept through all of the cubby holes where I keep my things, picking out hiking equipment here, a dozen books there (ok, I thought, I really must cut that down to half a dozen at the most), shirts here, my chargers and laptop there. I put my bike in the basement, not sure if I was feeling sick because stabling her when it is nice out seems wrong, or because I smoked my last cigarette on my stoop too fast. Then, an extra bag filled with gear for a long trek in Scotland, my backpack loaded with emergency equipment just in case, I hit the airport.

Many hours later, I am here. I have no idea what time my body thinks it is. I slept an hour on the plane, maybe less. I slept an hour on cushions in the office where I am writing this, an office filled with new friends I’ve made. My coworker is typing away in the next room; I’m staying with him here, in a country I’ve never been to before. Soon, we’ll go to dinner and drink a bit. Then, back to the couch for me.

The compromise? I’ll return. In two and a half months, I’ll board the plane in Porto, and fly back to America, to Cambridge, to the five hundred books I had before Christmas, to the five hundred I’ve bought since then after I realized that a $1 book on sale at Goodwill is the best return on investment I’d likely ever see. I’m separated, aloof, cut off from my four-mat room; but the image of it sits there, on the edge of the blanket which curls around my feet in the airplane, on the tip of my cigarette, on my slightly horripilating skin.

It feels right. This is what I wanted. I worked hard all day - distances make only a trivial difference to the internet - and I’ll do the same tomorrow. But in between, at meal times, in the gloaming, I’ll be here, attached to my former, European, nomadic self. A raw and crisp etching of who I was yesterday, when I knew what lay around the corner of the block. Life is an adventure; and now, instead of jumping off the plank, I’ve got a rope tied tight around me. And I want to see, if over the next two months, it begins to unravel.

Darker blue spreads across the sky like a wave, and I hear a lark singing it in.

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