I’ll admit it; I was nervous about coming back. Even though it’s where I grew up, and where my family and most of my friends live, it had come to seem so far away.

America. It had even come to sound wistful when I said it aloud. The land of dreams. A place where, depending on whom you listened to, everything was falling apart; or a place where everything, after so long, finally was starting to come together.

I wanted to avoid at all costs the embarrassment of seeming like a foreigner, so I worked hard to remember all the things that were different about a place that had become a vacation destination for me: Air conditioning, ice cubes, big cars, big portions. I had done well, I thought; as my friend Katie whisked me toward my old skyline, I was able to help her navigate the highway/turnpike cluster from hell. We got back to her place, and I asked to use the loo. Twenty-four hours of traveling solo will do that to you.

I couldn’t find the flusher on the toilet.

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