I'm standing on hot asphalt at the edge of the Connecticut River, testing my balance on one old railroad tie, waiting in line to cross the border into Vermont. I can see the trees from here—a line of dense, deep green bleeding into the deep green shadows of the water. The leaves ripple in the breeze like scuffed carpet.
I haven’t been to Vermont since I left for college in 2015. I’m nearing forty now, and I’ve been dreaming of home for months now. When I close my eyes, I see forest shadows patterned on the inside of my eyelids. I doodle cornfields and dandelion leaves on my legal pads at work. I painted my apartment green, but the flat pale planes of Forest Moss only mock the vibrant memories of my childhood. My houseplants’ plastic leaves gather dust.
It’s my turn. A man in a gray uniform is holding out a hand. I pull a bundle of envelopes from my backpack and he sorts through them.
Mine is dark green. It has a moose stamped on the front. He flips the pages, examining the various states’ emblems, and finally presses a smudgy NEW HAMPSHIRE BORDER onto the soft paper. “You’re clear.”
The Nation of Vermont doesn’t allow cars anymore, so it’s my bicycle I unlock and wheel to the tall wooden gates at the entrance to the bridge. I can see the fields beyond the fringe of trees, can see the neat tilled rows of green and the black hedges between them, the rising dust of the dirt roads. In the distance, the mountains are tinged blue by the summer haze. The gates creak open, and a cheer goes up from the crowd—all us businesspeople and misfits and second-generation hippies, trying to find a place where we belong. I wonder if the benches on the Burlington Waterfront still exist. If there’s still a cabin on the top of Mount Mansfield where hikers spend the night. I inhale deeply. The air smells of apples and dirt. I swing my leg over the crossbar of my bike and pedal home.