Written by Liz Livingston

Photos by Manuela Montañez

There’s a Fantasy City my subconscious likes to visit. I’m walking down concrete streets lined with buildings, some glittering glass, others stained stone and somber with the weight of their centuries. Their sizes and purposes vary, but all of them are full of both life and death, dreams and failures, time, time, time. And within that spiraling time, I search for a way home.

I push on door after door, but none of them obey. The sun splinters down (when the buildings allow) and the heat of it radiates around me. I want space. I walk faster. I’m lucky in this fantasy because, instead of falling into panic, I draw upon a store of hope that I didn’t even know was there. I imagine a wide sky burning blue, the land beneath it brown with dirt and mesquite, boundless in its ability to just keep sprawling.

Armored with the hope of that vision, I keep trying doors. One must open. Not everything can be locked. Even the most dutiful doorman makes mistakes. Finally a revolving door spins, rewarding my persistence, and I spill into a lobby unlike any other in Fantasy City. My image begins to take life in front of me. Finally tangible.

It is the land of the women before me, who knew how to use desert plants as medicine. And before them, a brilliant sea. And before that, long before, the land of creatures so ancient they might rise up to the height of the buildings back on the street.

I recognize my home. Texas before Texas was Texas.

The spirit of the land fills my lungs and, before I can enjoy it, I wake up gasping for air. A newborn slapped on its seat.

The fantasy over, I take account of what I know to be true:

1. I live in New York City.

2. I was born and raised in West Texas.

3. Neither of these places can be home while the other exists, for in neither of these places do I perfectly fit.

I came to the city for a reason. Maybe to surrender to the truest version of myself. Maybe running from the confines of the past. Maybe running just to run. Take your pick. None of these reasons, no matter how steadfast the vision behind them, stops me from remembering the land that raised me. It runs deep and I’m only now awakening to its gentle hum within my blood.

When I’m in the city, I dream of Texas like the younger version of myself dreamed of New York – with promise and a sense of place. Just like moving to New York seemed complicated to my preteen self, returning home also seems complicated. I rush to the airport excited to hug my family, but once I’m on the plane I feel a little pit take root in my stomach. When you’re always homesick like this, you search for new ways to define home.

And so I continue to run, either in a Fantasy City or in reality or under the Texas sun, catching my reflection when I can, just to make sure I’m still me.

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