Our theme for the month of September is Alphabet Soup. Each writer was assigned a letter and will title their post “___ is for ___.”

After I have been
Back in the United States for a few weeks, I find myself
Crying at the strangest things: museum exhibits, or
Dads carrying their children on their shoulders.
Everything catches my eyes and attention, this city all at once
Familiar and strange. I am so
Grateful to be here, but it is so
Hard to be here—I feel I am
Inhabiting a stranger’s body: stiff, and
Jetlagged not in hours but in years. People are
Kind, but so busy, all of them
Living their own remarkable lives. My adjustment
Manifests itself in clumsiness.
Nothing comes out easily, and I have
Only so much energy to run through my
Practiced introduction again and again. Eventually, I smile and I grow
Quiet. I spend a lot of time alone in museums,
Running my eyes along the walls, feeling my heart
Soar as I see the hymnals, hats, and hairbrushes
That were held by hands who
Understood that
Victory is not for anyone
When it is not for everyone. Who needs some printed-out
Xeroxed copy when you can see originalYellowing pages of spidery handwriting scrawling
Zealous proclamations of aspiration, persistence, hope. Oh, I am
Yearning for something I can’t name,
Xenophobia’s opposite—Xenophilia? I am looking for strangers,
Wistfully seeking a community with only a
Vague idea of what that looks like.
Understand: I’ve only just been
Transplanted, disoriented, thirsty, and
Still stretching out my
Roots. How do you
Quantify the shock of reentry? Or
Put a timeline on the slow relaxing of
Old habits and familiar customs. How do you focus when the city is
Noisy like a station of the
Metro, apparition of these faces
Looking at their phones. What if I
Keep feeling strange? What if I can’t capture
Joy? What if I still feel
Invisible even after having been
Here for years?
Give me time, give me purpose, give me
Friends and I’ll feel well here, my heart
Expanding with every lecture, every concert, every
Drum circle with dancing in the park. In the meantime, I seek
Control wherever I can find it, set a routine, sort papers into
Binders, and chronicle my spiraling emotions in neatly ordered
Alphabetical lists.

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