My apartment is finally doing what it was always intended to do–welcoming company. As it opens, so does my heart, inches at a time. Eager isn’t the right word for how I feel; this is like quenching a thirst.

It must be the Alaskan in me that hungers for other bodies to visit the spots where I live. The other night I watched Robin Penn in Land and understood why she began to accept another human within the isolation where she had locked herself. Company is a word that’s like a campfire in cold and lonely country and the need for it becomes more permanent than a tattoo.

It’s the one Alaskan trait that I acknowledge and foster. It isn’t part of New York or Seattle. Cafe society and street life have become art forms in New York, a city so studded with interactions between strangers that home is where you go to make sense of them all, alone. Seattle? I still don’t have a grip on its protectiveness of personal dwelling places. “Neighbor” is a word that’s tossed around a lot by residents who barely learn the names of the people who live next door. It’s the only place I’ve ever lived where I’ve been greeted with a hearty “Hello, Neighbor,” a salutation so unsettling to me that I start looking nervously over my shoulder for Mr. Rogers.

In my forty-plus years of coming and going in Seattle, I can count perhaps eight people who have invited me over for a visit. Three of those became my friends because we all lived on the same block and my cat was a feline Welcome Wagon in reverse who moved in and took over, refusing to recognize any sort of boundary. But now I can foster my own porous borders again and I feel a core of chill inside me begin to warm and melt. For me, meeting in cafes simply isn’t a substitute for being able to have people sit at my own table–and that’s Alaskan.

Or maybe that’s Tucsonian, where I was so welcomed that over two years after I moved away it still feels like home. Maybe it’s a frontier survival tactic, a matter of pure necessity that was bred by harsh circumstances and became innate. 

“Come in. Sit down. Have a cup of coffee,” were words I learned to parrot soon after I learned to talk. They still make me happy, although now I’m much more likely to say, “Have a glass of wine.”