Read “Where the Heart Is,” Creative Nonfiction, in The Rumpus

If you’ve stayed in a hotel or a B&B or even a friend’s house overnight, you’ve probably experienced that gently disruptive feeling that lets you know you’re not at home, not where you belong. But you adjust. When you’re a child of ten and your family is forced to find shelter with a relative, the disruption isn’t gentle and the adjustment comes at a cost. In “Where the Heart Is,” I try to capture the trauma of homeless displacement by recalling the small inconveniences that made staying at our aunt’s house so lonely. It was a crowded place, with siblings and cousins everywhere and beds and cots filled, but I had arrived at an empty place within myself, where there was very little comfort. We like to think we “get over” these things as we get older, but, in my case, what it took to feel at home with anyone, to feel safe, did not come easily. My childhood struggles have made me a stronger person, but I don’t fool myself into thinking they’ve left no mark.