As I write, there’s a piece of luggage on the floor of the study, semi-unpacked.  It should have been fully unpacked a week ago, but since then, it’s become a piece of furniture:  the cats play around it, sleep in it, make themselves comfortable in its presence.  Matthew looks at it pityingly.  He knows the more he mentions it, the more it becomes a permanent fixture.  Better to let the clothes get coated in cat fur.  That’ll teach him.

I’ve lived out of suitcases for weeks before.  Cardboard boxes, months.

I have a reason, this time, for not unpacking.  Soon, I will make a 2-hour drive to Washington, D.C., for the three-day Associated Writing Programs conference (sort of like the Modern Language Association conference but with 200% less despair and 200% more alcohol).  The sweaters stay put, as do the thick socks and other pieces of clothing designed to keep me warm.

A winter storm makes inexorable progress across the midsection of the United States, like a roll of unwanted flab.  It will soon suffocate the East Coast.  About 2 miles from our home, there’s a car buried to its windows in snow, victim of the previous storm.  A baby mammoth, separated from the herd, caught in ice.

Vagabond opens with a shot of a girl in a ditch, frozen to death.  When the police lift her into a body bag, her legs stay rigid.  They look as if they might snap off.

I’m neither worried about ice on the roads nor about my ability to maneuver through a skid.  I am worried about what I should have in the car but don’t:  flares, thermal blanket, reflective orange signs — things in case I end up in a ditch.  I could probably build a small shelter out of the clothes packed (or intended for packing) for the trip.

You could read my reluctance to unpack (ever!) as an indication that no place feels like home.  At any moment, I may have to uproot myself and settle someplace new.  Why, therefore, invest the energy to put away belongings when you might have to gather them up again?

You could also read the exact opposite:  this place where I’ve dropped my luggage — home — is where I feel comfortable enough to leave things in disarray, knowing that they’ll always be there (or, at least, until Matthew’s frustration reaches post-mettlesome levels).

(It could also be that I’m lazy.  Don’t ask Matthew what he thinks.)

Someone rather close to me once told me he had spent a short time homeless.  Only a week or so.  It was during the summertime so he could sleep on park benches without fear of hypothermia.  I wonder if this has affected his idea of ‘home.’ When he moves into a place, he immediately makes it his:  art on the walls, pictures on every horizontal surface, everything in place, everything in order.  It makes him feel safe, I think.  Content.

Mona, the titular Vagabond, carries her home — a thin red cloth tent — on her back.  It makes her feel similarly safe.

And then the cold closes in.

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