There was a leashed pig on my doorstep when I came home Monday.
He was refusing to cross the street, hiding behind his human friend, because someone had brought their pet snake out to brunch. He didn’t want to be on the same side of the street as a snake.
This isn’t a metaphor; this is Long Beach.
On my way to the corner shop, I pass a friend. She tells me that the shopkeeper two streets down was just in a surfing accident. She takes a get-well card out of her pocket and I sign it, noticing that the art on the front is drawn by a local.
I pick up a banana at the shop, and the cashier hands me an acorn. “I picked it up for the gnome,” he says sheepishly, and I thank him. Acorns aren’t easy to come by here.
The gnome is an act of community fiction, local art. It’s an electrical door I decorate for every holiday. Sometimes, I play with photos so that the gnome can enjoy Long Beach, too.
It’s a strange place, like a big pup that thinks its still a lapdog. It’s a big city that thinks it is still a small town.
And though I don’t know what you call a place like that, I have begun to call it home.
It worries me, some days– being so connected to a sidewalk, a street, a piece of ground. My family moved a lot. I don’t have a lot of experience with standing still, and given how my life tends to unfold, I doubt I’ll end up staying much longer.
Things always come up and push me along.
Some days I think the universe has confused me with a tumbleweed. Most days, I don’t think of it at all.
Who knows what a very small thing looks like to a very big thing? Most of the time, it looks like nothing.
That’s why no one ever actually sees the gnome.
Today on my street, a man sang to his wife, and two girls cartwheeled down my sidewalk, and pug and a beagle shared a puddle. Today on my street, a thousand cars drove past, not looking anywhere except ahead.
Today on my street, I had a lemonade and sat outside. A pig came up and licked my shoes. He remembered me.
His human friend did not.
Long Beach is a strange place. A small town that swallowed a big wide city whole. A small town whose eyes seemed bigger than its stomach, but it turns out there’s always more and more room.
I don’t know what you call a place like that, but I call it home.