Within the warm confines of a one-bedroom apartment in the fashionable Alphabet District in Northwest Portland, Oregon, a handsome young man sits at his computer, and frowns at the screen. A sleek black dog lies curled in a ball at my feet. The apartment smells of lilies, palo santo incense, and our breakfast of oatmeal with olive oil, thyme, and sweet strawberry jam. There is a wall covered in picture frames and mementos, bookshelves buckling under the weight of so many volumes, a record player, and a small collection of houseplants.
I have been the newest resident in this gracefully curated space since my arrival on the first of November of this year. Three weeks ago, I resigned from my position as an educational assistant at a school for undocumented, unaccompanied young men from Mexico and Central America. The shock of suddenly losing the rigid structure of a daily routine was, at first, overwhelming. I would walk Xochi, the ten-year old lab mix, while her caregiver was away at work, then sit on the orange couch, listening to melancholy music and brooding over the expanse of time and stillness that I was now in charge of.
Today marks the beginning of my last week in this city, in this apartment, in this incredible, close proximity to my partner and his kindly, intelligent, canine friend. In one week, I will board an Amtrak train bound for San Francisco and Los Angeles, and say goodbye to my community in Portland. I have lived here for five years, and it wasn’t until the beginning of my fourth that I began to feel at home. Yet these rooms felt familiar since the moment I stepped inside in early February. It is possible that I will never see these four walls again— I am moving to Aracaju, Brazil, for the 2016 school year.
It has not been since my upbringing, with my own biological family, that I have experienced so much care, attentiveness, and sustained, gentle, and loving guidance towards growth. Being so included in this beautiful place has shifted something deep inside of me. This little family, this man and his dog, leave their twinkling spirits with me, as lights remain on our retinas even after being extinguished. Beyond just my eyes, the experience of this jeweled box has left its imprint written upon my heart, indelibly.