Homes is Where the Heart Lies
Some consider it a reward. Some consider it an annoyance.
As for me, travel has been my life since I was born 18 years ago.
My name is Matsui Jurina, and I was born in the rural hills of Germany when the plane my parents rode made a pit stop for my grand entrance into the world. And since then I have never associated a single place in the world as ‘home’. Of course, I know that I’m technically Japanese, but I’ve spent as much time in Japan as I have in Africa. So as far as I know, I could just as well be African.
My parents are avid travelers who make a living publishing some of the most respectable travel and nature magazines in the world. And while most people would try to settle down once they have a kid, that idea never even crossed their minds. I’ve been all over the world. Set foot in every continent by the time I was five. Three if you don’t count Antarctica.
And while I’m more than accustomed to having fleeting friendships and relationships, I had a sudden thought blossom recently.
Out of 6.8 billion people in the world…
How do I find the one
Out of all the people I’ve brushed shoulders with, how am I supposed to tell who the right person is?
What if I passed them years ago? What if I walked past them yesterday, and that was the sole chance I’d ever have to find them?
As I sat under the tree of Tuscany’s hilly countryside, contemplating with a frown on my face, I somehow didn’t notice someone walking up beside me.
“Why the frown in such a beautiful place?” She asked, crimson red one piece blowing in the wind.
“Oh. Haha, I guess I just got carried away in my thoughts.” I answered, looking up with a smile.
“A penny for your thoughts?” She asked while brushing a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
“Well…it’s pretty silly, so don’t laugh, ok?” I warned. “Out of the billions of people in the world, how do you find the one person who’s perfect for you?”
“Hmm…I think that’s something that you’ll just have to leave to fate. Things usually have a way of working out, one way or another.”
“Are you feeling lonely?” She asked with a small tilt of her head.
Ah, the curse of a globe trotting nature. I may have friends all over the world, but I only get to see them once a year or two, and that’s if they still remember me. Yet if I try to stay in one place, I feel like I’ve been shackled to the ocean floor. But the one thing that carries across all cultures? Love. And if you have that one person, no matter where you are, you’re home. The place I’ve been searching for all these years.
“You’re pretty observant.” I commented as she swept the back of her dress under to sit beside me.
“Want to be friends? My name’s Matsui Rena.”
And that was how it began.
Little did I expect to meet a fellow Japanese in the Italian countryside, especially one who shared my last name. I learned that she was studying in Italy at the moment and had come out to the country for a weekend getaway. For the next two weeks, we spent a ton of time together, eating, talking, and just wandering. The more I found out about her, the more interested in her I became. For such a clean and pretty girl, I wouldn’t have expected her to be obsessed with anime. Or like rock music. Or sometimes be subtly seductive, whether she notices it herself or not.
One night when we were aimlessly strolling down the city streets, this feeling of realization suddenly burst in my chest.
I liked her. A lot.
The way she talks. Her smile. Her hate of her own forehead. The way she walks. The light touches on my arm when she’s trying to get my attention.
I loved it all, and I most definitely wasn’t going to let her disappear off my radar like some of my friends had. So when we parted ways two weeks later, I made sure to exchange every piece of contact information manageable. I even got her address in Japan just in case.
I played with the idea of just having a crush on her at first, but then I realized that I thought about her every single day. I missed her. And I almost never missed anything. No matter where I went for the next couple months, my heart yearned to return to Italy. To Rena.
And of course, I did. I would come to visit her at least once every two months. Any longer than that and I would feel drained of my life. And every single time I saw her, I felt myself falling deeper and deeper in love with her.
When she got her degree and moved back to Japan, I could finally confirm the feelings in my heart.
Italy, while still just as beautiful, didn't hold that same warmth anymore. Japan did.
And I began returning there so often, that my parents thought some kind of ancestral calling was beckoning me.
But it wasn’t Japan itself.
It was Rena.
“Hey, I didn’t know you were in the country!” She came running out of her apartment, wrapping me in a tight hug.
“Yeah, I missed you!” I answered while returning the hug. When I’m with her, I’m like a battery recharging. Her warmth, her smell, her touch. I can’t live without it. That’s why I’m gonna tell her tonight.
“Ne, I have something to tell you.”
“Ne, I have something to tell you.”
We both blurted out at the same time, before bursting into laughter.
“Okay okay, you first.” I insisted after we finally calmed down.
“Jurina, I…” She started in a nervous tone, face already turning pink.
“I think I l-like somebody…love, in fact.” She continued in embarrassment. Little did she know that my heart nearly stopped at the revelation. I had a slight hope that she would return my feelings, but I didn’t expect her to confess to me first!
“And…it’s a girl I like.” She added while peeking at me through her bangs. “Does that…bother you?”
“Of course not. Shouldn’t you know me better than that?” I returned with a smile that hid my rattling nerves. She’s the one for me. I’m sure of it.
I nod before she throws her arms around my neck, nearly squeezing the life out of me.
But then there was more.
“Her name is Furukawa Airi. I want you to meet her.”
“Jurina?” She pulled back to look at me when no response came.
“I…I’m happy for you.” Faking a grin, I pulled her back into my arms to hide my breaking facial expressions until they were under control again.
“How’s tomorrow then?”
“Sure! Now get to bed, you! I’ll see you tomorrow.”
For the next few hours, I didn’t budge from the area in front of her apartment building. No matter how hard I tried, the tears wouldn’t stop falling and the most painful feelings were thrashing around inside my chest.
But I held onto the tiniest shred of hope I had. Maybe her feelings were unrequited. I would still be able to win her back after that, right?
But that light got snuffed the next day.
Airi was a nice girl, and she shared a ton of Rena’s hobbies. Even though it was supposed to be a group outing, I somehow ended up feeling like the third wheel.
That night, the two of them made it clear that they both felt the same way, and I was left to the side watching the one girl meant for me slip out of my grasp.
As the days, months, and years passed, they only grew closer and closer.
But my feelings never died. Every time I returned home, a bigger hole would be ripped into my heart.
So I made my decision.
“Hey Rena, you know what day it is?” I asked after suddenly calling her out one day.
“Hm? I don’t know.”
“Four years ago, we met this day in Tuscany, remember?”
“Ooohhhhhh!! I’m sorry I forgot! Why? What’s up?” She asked with a curious tilt of her head, just like she did that day on the hill.
“Remember what you told me? That everything has a way of working out?”
“I just wanted to thank you for that. And for all the time we shared together.”
“…Are you going somewhere?”
“Yeah. I just want to let you know that…”I whispered into her ear after wrapping my arms around her waist. “You’re the one
Since then, I have never seen her again. Numerous phone calls from her came in at first, but I ignored them all. And with the matter of time, they began dying off until they stopped completely.
But as long as she’s happy, I’ll be content.
I’ll just stay here under the shade of this tree.
Because as long as I have my memories, Rena will always be by my side here.