Mary Louise sat by herself on the train car waiting for her train to go. She had been on this train for about an hour. She had already changed trains twice to get to her favorite place. Mary Louise had to get away from her house. It wasn't her home. Her parents wouldn’t stop pestering her about going to grad school and becoming a doctor. They compared her to her older brother, Landon, who had become a surgeon.
An old man stumbled on board. His skin was like a brown paper bag. It was wrinkled and thin like rice paper. The old man wore a beige crumpled suit, a yellow button down shirt, and a deep purple tie. He wore white tinted sunglasses. The old man smiled at Mary Louise weakly, then collapsed on a seat on the opposite side of the train.
Before Mary Louise realized it, the old man fell asleep.
A few minutes later, a young couple came aboard cuddling a baby. The baby started to cry. The mother whispered to it, “It’s okay, my darling. We’re here.” The father smiled. The family shuffled to the other side of the train and sat down.
A middle aged lady came in next. She wore a cherry red crop top and denim shorts. Her black hair was pulled back into a high ponytail revealing five pierces per ear. She sat in a seat a few rows back from Mary Louise.
Next, came in a dad who looked plain exhausted. He herded a boy and a girl aboard who were obviously twins. They both had sandy blonde hair and green eyes. They were arguing about something, but Mary Louise couldn’t make it out.
Mary Louise put on her headphones and hit play on her iPod. She listened to music as more and more people came onto the train. A man in a cowboy hat, western boots, jeans, and a flannel shirt came in. A woman with sunglasses, a designer dress, and high-heels came in next.
Soon enough, the train car was filled with people. The last song on Mary Louise’s playlist finished just as a young man rushed on board. He looked about thirty, maybe a little younger. He had chocolate brown hair and ice blue eyes. He wore khaki slacks and a royal blue button down shirt. Because there weren’t any more seats, he sat across from Mary Louise.
The young man smiled, then said, “Hi! I’m Levi Anderson, but you can call me Levi. What’s your name?”
Mary Louise took off her headphones. “I’m Mary Louise.” She quickly looked down at the iPod in her hand.
“Are you okay? We’ve got a long train ride until the next stop. We might as well talk.”
“It’s just... I’m a senior in college, and my parents are pressuring me to go to medical school like my brother. It’s not what I want.”
The train pulled out of the station.
Levi sighed. “What do you want?”
“A house that actually feels like home.” Mary Louise answered quickly.
Levi simply smiled. “What is a home, Miss Mary Louise?”
She thought about it, then said, “A home is the place where you grow up.”
“That’s where you’re wrong.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take me for example. I grew up on a corn farm in Iowa until I was twenty four. Now I work in New York City. The Big Apple is more of a home to me than Iowa ever was.”
“I don’t get it.”
“Home is where it feels like home. Home is when you feel like you belong. Everyone’s home is different. No one's home is the same. Look at all these different people. One of their homes might be on a farm. Others’ might be in a city. Another’s might be on the ballfield. Some might be on a runway. Where is your home?”
Mary Louise didn’t know what to say.
The train slowed. “Well, this is my stop. I hope you find out where your home is, Mary Louise.” Levi Anderson stood up and walked out of the train car.
Mary Louise leaned back in her seat as the train started up again.
I don’t know where my home is, Mary Louise thought.
Levi’s words rang in her head. Home is where it feels like home. Home is when you feel like you belong. Everyone’s home is different. No one's home is the same.
The train kept on rolling. With each stop, Mary Louise started to understand what Levi had meant just a little bit more.
Finally, the train halted at Mary Louise’s stop. She stood up. Mary Louise hadn’t realized how many people had left. The young couple and their baby were gone along with the cowboy man and the woman in the crop top. The old man was still asleep on a seat. The dad had taken a brave move and had sat in between his arguing kids who were hitting each other over his lap. The woman in the designer dress was trying to dodge things the twins threw at each other.
Mary Louise quickly shouldered her backpack and walked off of the train.
The sky was clear and Mary Louise couldn’t see a cloud in any direction. The sun was directly above her, but Mary Louise didn’t feel too warm in her denim shorts and paint-splattered white blouse. She walked out of the station and towards the nearest hiking trail.
As she hiked, she passed several runners, a dirt biker, and a few people dressed in boots, hiking sticks, and backpacks.
After a few minutes of hiking up the green mountain, Mary Louise reached a crossroad. The path on the left had clearly been used a lot. The ground was packed down revealing footprints of all kinds. The path on the right was overgrown. The only way Mary Louise even knew the path was there was because she had been here multitudinous times.
She didn’t hesitate on which path to take. Mary Louise started making her way through the overgrown trail. The trees around her became really dense.
Mary Louise emerged from the path into a clearing lined with wildflowers. A small wooden bridge stretched over a grassy chasm with a river running through it at the bottom. The river came from a waterfall facing the bridge.
Mary Louise strolled towards the center of the bridge where she pulled a sketchbook and colored pencils out of her backpack. She held a sky blue colored pencil over a blank page, but she couldn’t bring herself to draw.
Mary Louise wanted to draw her home. She thought it was right here, in the spot she escaped to. Mary Louise’s home was...
She started to draw. Mary Louise drew the world. She drew her parents, Levi Anderson, everyone who was on the train, and even her brother, Landon.
The world was her home.
The world was a Diverse City.
Her home was in Diverse City.