On a quiet Saturday, only a few days after leaving my family, the wind whips down my street, chilling my fingers and making my eyes water. By the time I get to the bus stop, my eyes have already dribbled tears onto my earbud cord, freezing before I could wipe them away. When I get to the university, my toes are numb, and the train’s draft makes everything worse: my hair, my temperature, my mood. Since I left my family (home-home) to come back home (Edmonton), I haven’t spoken with anyone in person. The silence presses me into a blanket burrito. The cold is a convenient excuse to stay in. I crave the tromping of toes by dogs, the shouting across the house for chores to be done, the endless banter, the specific things only my family provides.
Trudging and stomping, I arrive exactly on time at our designated meeting place, the basement of CAB. Alone, again, I sit in a plastic chair at a table bolted to the floor. This navy and mustard table will never move from here. It knows its place. Admittedly, the walls are painted a matching ugly yellow, and I question when the carpet was last vacuumed, but this table has its place.
My fingers tap anxiously. What if they forgot? In preparation for today, I spent the night learning the rules for Dungeons & Dragons and fiddling with my new set of dice. As a distraction, I try to start the homework that has yet to be assigned, but a blank document just stares back at me.
The doors on the far side of the basement slam shut, and a blurry guy in blue plaid approaches. Wishing I’d worn my glasses, I wave hesitantly. As he becomes sharper, Lei laughs, “Sorry I’m late. Well, we’re all late. Hope you didn’t wait too long.”
“I didn’t, actually. Just got here 10, 15 minutes ago.” The pressure on my lungs lightens as more people arrive and conversation comes freely. An hour and too many stairs later, all six of us pile into CAB 3-57 and begin rolling our characters.
Maaika the wood-elf rogue, Agnes the half-elf ranger, Ragemaker the Faceshredder the barbarian orc, Lightning Fingers the human bard, and Blando GreyBeige the human ex-guard, emerge from average young adults. Plopped in a medieval realm, we form a rock band with a gazebo for a stage, only one banjo and two people equipped for questing. Eight hours slip away as we attempt a concert, sell magic chocolate milk too aggressively, flee from the consequent guards and slay an orc. The smothering quiet lifts its weight from my body.
Even though my family might not live in Edmonton, my place is still with these people, all these people. From the elderly lady with the magenta tuque with whom I always seem to ride the bus, to the rollerblading guitar guy on Whyte, to the shopkeeper at The Edmonton Book Store. With the classmates, the bus mates, the passers-by, the people with both a home and a home-home, I find my place.
Hannah Schmakeit is an Alberta-based writer and a student at the University of Alberta. She’s written for Glass Buffalo, has received a Salter Tea writing award, and has been nominated for an Alberta Magazine Publishers Association award for fiction.