Five Wednesdays

The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keeping on, like a bird that flew,

Tangled up in Blue.

For the last five successive Wednesdays, I have not slept in the same city twice. Wednesday the 3rd, I was in Hong Kong, saying my tearful Goodbyes For Now to Asia, to China, and to Diana Hsu. The 10th, the rhythm of the rails was all I could feel, steaming out of Chicago. Wednesday the 17th, I slept after setting up a meeting in Sacramento. And this Wednesday, the 25th, I was in Portland, and drunk. I haven’t moved around this much since that climactic November of 2006.

Last Friday, I saw an American doctor for the first time in three years. I pointed to my strained bicep and asked when it would heal, why it hadn’t yet. When I told her that I got it over the May Day holiday, wiping out on a cursed bicycle in the hills outside Yangshuo, China, the doctor replied “the fact that it’s healed that much in only six weeks is already a miracle.”

It seems inconceivable to me that it was only six weeks before that I was on that May Day trip with Diana. Only six weeks since contributing our underwear to the ceiling of Bad Panda, since meeting the old farm couple who mended the bike, since riding atop an ammo crate back into Yangshuo. A year in China is like three years outside, that is true, but still…

So much has happened. And I feel like the only thing that’s really changed has been me. My parents still take money from the government to shoot politicians. All my friends back in China carry on with their lives, all my friends here in America carry on with theirs. I am no longer a player in anyone’s dramas, so I am a trusted audience and confidante. After all, I’m leaving with the Peace Corps come autumn, I must be safe. I find it strange to be back here, in a thousand little ways – worrying about jaywalking, the ease with which I can get things repaired, remembering that twenty dollars actually is a lot of money, being quietly shocked to hear people having political opinions, how many pairs of amazingly blue eyes there are.

It’s an eerie thing, coming home. “Home” is at once alien and familiar. And every time I do come back to Morro Bay, it feels less and less like my home. It feels like someone else’s, like it belongs to Shawn Clark next door and to Jade Roberts my first crush and to my father, who’s adopted the town as his own. I’m not sure where home is for me any more. Maybe that’s why I keep moving around.

I wonder where I’ll be this Wednesday.


About R. Jean Mathieu

They say he speaks five languages, was conceived on a chess board, and once seduced a tong boss' daughter and lived to tell the tale. All we know is, he's called Roscoe. You can find more scurrilous lies at and buy his books at View all posts by R. Jean Mathieu

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