Here, You Belong

Maybe it's a mis-firing of our neurons. A crossing of wires that leads us to believe we can possess a timeless knowing. Maybe moments in the present trigger us to recall forgotten memories and what we perceive as deja vu is simply a deep sense of communion. Maybe, the mystic says, you know when you've known a soul.

They say we met on a late fall morning in 2001, the after-shock of September's events clinging grimly to each passing month, but the moment I held you I knew we went back much farther. You clawed at me for dear life, looking into my eyes like an infant, terrified of what the world was and needing some comfort. I held you tighter because I needed the same--a scrappy 12-year-old recently jousted into a suburban existence where friendships were fallible and I no longer knew belonging.

Your eyes always give away your old soul. The way they look so ancient, slightly weary of the way the world works. They say I came into the world with a similar expression. A "where's my lawyer" skepticism. The world's too big, too much for us sometimes, and in our hesitance to fully accept this we are not alone, together.

See, I was petting you the other day and I was brought back to a past life. Smells came flooding into my mind from my first home, smells that seemed nascent, known before birth. Prehistoric. Set in my bones. It's a feeling of being owned by a specific place and time. Like the space and time my soul really lives in is that time. As that girl. . I remembered an innocence that felt like heaven on earth, but did it really feel like that then? I was surprisingly jaded as a young girl and despite a lovely existence I was constantly worried and consumed with the fragility of life. But why, then, was everything better and why do you always make me remember

big oatmeal chocolate chip cookies soft in the middle but crispy on the outside from Great Harvest wearing my hair down past my waist when it wasn't beginning to thin and speckled with my first grays the hot air and the cold garden hose my constant companion and portable drinking fountain and wild storms that blew apart branches in the backyard but the heavy roots of our yard's massive tree never shook i watched as ants and bumblebees crawled over hydrangeas like they owned the place like they own the earth i read books all the time and everything felt big i rode my bike up and down the block a pair of pink Barbie binoculars around my neck I was Harriet the spy I was a superhero and I was a teacher an Olympian an archaeologist a real estate agent a figure skater a medieval sorceress a divorce attorney a confidant sailor on seas i knew nothing about you weren't with us then but you somehow conjure up the smell of my mother's perfume and fresh rain and making our ice cream into malts with our spoons and a room full of toys and a soft green and blue bed. Of a life before a life, of time before this time, that's where I really am when I'm with you. And If I could just remember it, I would always be happy.

After we moved from that first house, adolescence set in and I was never a little girl again. I became the scrappy 12-year-old and then the rebellious 16-year-old and the pray to Jesus she figures it out 20-year-old and now at 25 with some major things figured out I somehow feel more confused about the really big things, the important things, than ever. Even though I'm the oldest I've ever been. Funny how that works. But through any difficulty I had, you were my constant. Throughout three moves, countless bad dates, juvenile dramas and heartache, you have been my home. You are what shapes my memories--even if they were before we were formally introduced. You are the family that I never fight with. You are the friend I've had the longest. You are what I mark my time by, where I belong, where I am cradled and storms blow our branches but they never shake our roots. I sat there, petting your soft body, thinking of where your soul has lived before and where you will go someday. And I knew from your ancient eyes, from the child I am when I am with you, that it's always been right here, next to mine.

-claire