Leaving New Orleans in the early morning hours, the fog lifts from the water and hangs among the trees like the children of clouds, hiding from the rising day. We stop for beignets for the road, dropping powdered sugar over our laps and drinking black coffee. No sugar, the way we both like it. There’s enough sugar in the pastry, isn’t there?
I-10 begins to straighten, its shoulders rising towards its ears as the promise of a wide-open land lies over the broadening road. Through Lafayette and Beaumont, the French names stamped on the utilitarian green road signs like exotic names on 4-door sedans. The factories and shipyards of Houston beckon on the horizon, Come West here’s where the money is. From the freeway there is nothing to see, the smog and the grey of the Gulf and the reflective buildings downtown winking like the glinting eyes of the Texas billionaires who built them.
Before he was my husband, Nate and I drove through the back roads every weekend we could when we lived in Austin, driving in his work truck with the free gas and stopping at small stores among the fields of wildflowers to buy a beer in a paper sack. No one was watching out here, besides the eyes of farm workers that would take a break and squint at us through the bright sunlight from eyes dark as their dark faces.
Out there was peace, and Texas felt like home. The green wooed us with its promise of growth and spring, teasing us with its excess after so many years in the brown desert with its rocky bones exposed and its dry, bleached skies. In Texas water flowed even in the drought, and the rains wakened the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush like watercolor paintings. We made a plan to go back there, though it hasn’t happened yet we feel the pull of our adopted home. It’s the only state I’ve lived in, of all the states, where people were so proud to be from where they were. Texas is a world unto itself, and though I snorted at the idea before, you really do have to live there to get it.
I accepted it so fully as home because I had not found one yet. Growing up on the road gives you free will in where you choose to be from. I feel formed from many places, fingerprints of forests and sea and wilderness imprinted on my skin. Home is where I make it, and that feels like a gift and a curse. So much responsibility, and so little accountability. It would be so easy to keep running, keep flowing with the days and the roads in all directions, no direction.