Hanging out on the street in the small downtown area of my city at that hour ('downtown' is about 2 blocks wide and 5 blocks long), waiting for B to pick me up, it was warm and breezy and very Southern. There were crape myrtles everywhere by the train station and a sign saying the railroad track had originally been built by the confederate army during the civil war. It even smelled Southern- the smells I associate with visiting Atlanta and Florida in my youth. It smells like wet air and flowers and summer, and none of the horrible big city sewage smells they had in DC. And it felt much much safer than I would feel waiting for B outside the Philly* train station at 3:45 in the morning, even though it was completely deserted other than this southern working class dude talking on a cell phone with his deep accent and a giant palmetto bug the size of my hand walking along the sidewalk.
And it felt like like coming home, and being glad to be there, especially after 9 hours on a 7 hour train. You know that feeling. I associate that feeling with dorming in college. And not the way you think- it wasn't when I got back home to my parent's house. In college my parents would only let me dorm if I would go home every weekend for shabbas (since they knew I wouldn't keep shabbas at the dorms, as they already knew by that point that I wasn't too interested in religion). So every Friday afternoon I took the 2 hour train ride back to NJ and every Saturday night or Sunday morning my dad or my boyfriend at the time would drive me back into the city, where I lived in the Hunter College dorms in Manhattan on 25th street and 1st ave (I had a great view of the east river from my 10th floor tiny dorm room). And after a few months of this I would notice this huge feeling of relief, right when we were crossing the George Washington Bridge and the buildings of NYC were first in full view. That feeling of "I'm home! My own home, where I can do what I want, with no one to tell me what to do, where I don't have to keep up this religious charade." Later I felt that feeling in Philly too, when coming home from visiting my parents, or even when coming home from one of my many academic business trips, where I have to keep up a different type of charade (the "I'm collegial and friendly and totally normal, please network with me" charade).
Even though I've been out of town a few times this past year, it's been to visit friends or to visit my in-laws. This was my first business trip, my first trip out of town without B since moving here, and it was the strongest I have felt that homecoming reliefy feeling since moving down south...I guess after almost a year it is finally starting to feel like home. Even the civil war reminders don't bother me the way they used to. it's just one more weird quirk of being in the south. Of being home.
*now that I've been gone for almost a year I feel safe to say that I lived in Philly for 6 years, while I was going to grad school.