When I was fourteen I ran away from home,
because my mom and I had an argument in the living room,
in front of the rest of my family.
When I ran out the front door and slammed it behind me,
Hurrying from the porch I used to sweep in first grade,
Running down the driveway where I learned to ride a bike,
Traipsing on the street I wandered day and night,
Taking distorted pictures of street lamps on school nights,
I turned the corners I sometimes rode my bike around on the way to the library,
Stopping to stand in the grass on the corner, next to the stop sign,
Crying, shouting, barefoot and mad,
Dragging my heels through the leaves and grass,
My fingers grazing the ivy of the wall.
I turned the corner again onto the highway,
and coming down the road on the sidewalk,
a police car pulled over, red lights blaring,
and I pretended not to notice,
but the policeman talked to me,
asked me where I was going and where I lived,
and I answered, terrified, until he stopped.
I continued on the sidewalk, cut grass, deciduous trees,
bougainvillea running along the high wall
of the oldest country club in the Coachella Valley.
When it happens I am surrounded by trees, and the ground is dark.
I see the sidewalk in my memory, pockmarked and pale,
and lying there is the four of diamonds,
one scale from some lost deck of cards.
I look down at the card,
its sharp parallelograms and mirrored 4s dark in the night,
and having recently come home from China,
remember that the number means death there.
It's silly, but at fourteen, that was why I turned around.
At home, Dad had said, "Should we go after her?"
And my only little brother, a lump in his throat, wailed,
"Well, do you want her?"
By the time I turned around,
they were cruising slowly through our neighborhood,
our huge white Suburban moving like a mythical whale in the dark.
After some college boys harassed me about the police harassing me,
After I was walking back, playing card in hand,
My dad rolled the window down and said something funny,
something about coming home.
Six years later, I went for a walk here in London,
maybe just to feel the comfort of being warm when it's cold,
of wearing a coat and breathing out clouds.
I intended to walk down just one street, and at the end of it, to turn around.
I intended to stop when the line of trees stopped, and then to follow them home again.
But I continued into Kensington, and past Hyde Park, and through Hyde Park, and on,
And you're not going to believe me,
But after I passed a bus stop I looked down at the pavement,
Lit by yellow street lamps and crowded by trees and high buildings,
and I saw one card, an eight of clubs, lying alone on the sidewalk,
and again, I don't care what that card means to technical numerology or to the occult,
but eight is my favorite number,
and 8 is an infinity symbol turned on its side,
and eight is the number of steps to Nirvana,
and eight is a perfect cube,
and eight is a perfect octave.
I didn't stop and gape at the card on the ground; I picked it up and kept walking,
Carrying the omen with me,
Realizing that my life was, and had been, metaphors and foreshadowing,
building off of each other,
And that I need to start believing the whispers I hear in my mind,
things like "This will be finite, so end it,"
and "you'll be friends with this person,"
and the worst, after days of a strange fever:
"if you get close to him,
he has the power to remove you from what you love."
And because this needs a denouement, my dad is coming to England,
to carry me home, on a silver plane, like a bright fish in the sky,
And home isn't an escape, but a destination.
Home is a refuge and a celebration,
home is a place to hug three sisters and two brothers,
parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles and cousins.
Home is a place to make fresh orange juice on Christmas,
a place to play ping-pong with my sister
in the backyard in rolled jeans and sunglasses.
Home isn't a living room or a dark street.
Home isn't someone's sternum and clavicle,
or the touch of his hair on my forehead.
Home is my mom trying to say "I love you," more,
Home is my dad driving me back from the airport in our white suburban,
through the thousand windmills at the base of the San Jacinto mountains.
Home is arriving to the fourteen arms
of the seven people who love me most,
and it is knowing that my brother will always want me back
to be the fifteenth and the sixteenth,
and the eighth.