An Answer To The Impossible Question: Why?

15-ish hours ago I boarded a plane and landed 12.5 hours later in a different hemisphere, thousands and thousands of miles away from the people I love.

Why did I do this?

Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? That’s the question I’ve been trying to answer for months now. I’ve been telling people the same rote answers – because I can, because it’s pretty, because who am I accountable to, because when will I get to do this again? These are all true, but they are not the truth. Until I got on that plane, I don’t think I knew why I had to come.

I’m running away.

I am every child that has ever shoved their stuffed animals and favourite t-shirt into their backpack and walked to the end of the driveway. I am every teenager who stared longingly at their car or stopped a little too long in the train station, wondering what they could put in a note to make people understand why they had to go. Because when you need to run away, when everything in you says, “Go, go, go!” the people who don’t hear that chorus pumping through their veins have trouble understanding just what could make you want to leave. It’s nice where you’re at, it’s comfortable. But there is something in your heart screaming and it drowns out everything else.

I’m not running from people or a place or a situation, though. I think I’m running away from myself. I’m running away from the person I’ve been – I’m going halfway across the world to sacrifice her to the gods of travel and the ocean and the written word. I’m running away from the person that made her decisions because somebody else wanted her to. I feel like I’ve spent so much of my life basing my choices around other people that it feels incredible to make them for me. And selfish. And stupid.

But I keep getting the feeling this will be the last time I run away. This will be the last time I look at my life and say, “No, I can’t do this, don’t make me do this anymore.” Because now I’m not making plans based around anybody else – wherever I go from here, whatever I decide, it will be for me. It will be a choice. I will not fall into a place or a job just because it’s convenient or because I think I should want it. Fuck shouldShould has no place in my life.

I don’t know what I’m doing here. I have pretty much no plan. But I need to prove to myself that I can do this – that I can take off and do something totally unfamiliar and be okay. If I’m ever going to feel like I’m choosing my life, I need to do this. And wherever I go from here, it’ll be what I want and I’ll choose it for my own reasons, and that is far more than enough for me.

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So sometimes you end up on an accidental scavenger hunt

So, I have this bad habit of having accidental adventures. They seek me out and I am suddenly in the middle of one before I even knew adventure was a possibility.

When I was 19 my parents had moved from Singapore to Bangkok and I went home to visit for the summer. It was pretty lonely, I’m not going to lie. I loved seeing my family, but my friends were in Singapore and I didn’t have a whole lot to do to kill time. I went to the gym, I took tennis lessons, I watched a lot of TV. It wasn’t the best way to spend a summer, but I guess it could have been worse.

But given how boring it was, you can understand how, when I found out my friend Nat was going to be in Thailand for a bit, I got excited. Very excited. Slightly unreasonably excited. And when I get that excited, the little voice in my head that says, “Hey, maybe plan things?” goes away. It goes very, very far away.

So Nat and his mom invited me to come hang out with them for a night and I agreed before really figuring things out. My friend was in town and I was bored and I was going to hang out with my friend. Period. I was not going to let teeny, tiny, insignificant problems like the fact that I don’t speak Thai and that my dad would have the car and I was completely unfamiliar with the city stop me. No. I was going to have a night with my friend!

It is at times like this that I wish I was a slightly more practical person. Maybe I could have written down the address of their hotel? Maybe I could have gotten a phone number? I don’t know. Maybe I could have done something is all I’m saying. But I didn’t. The day came and I called a taxi and I got ready. I vaguely knew where I was going in that I knew I would have to take a taxi to the Skytrain and the Skytrain to another taxi to the hotel. Probably.

Well, problem number one was that I did not speak Thai and my taxi driver, for reasons as crazy and complicated as he lived in his own country and spoke his own language did not speak English. Unphased, I said “I need to go to x Skytrain station,” in my barely-rehearsed Thai. He heard “Skytrain” out of my babble, nodded, and away we went! And away and away and away. If Thailand had corn fields, we would have been driving through them. It looked like no road I’d ever been on, but we kept going and, 500 baht later, we ended up at the Skytrain station.

Then and only then did I realise I didn’t know where I was going.

I’m going to let that sit there for as second. I didn’t know where I was going. I. Am. Brilliant.

But I saw two tourists standing on the platform with a map, so I approached. “Hey, sorry to ask, but could I borrow your map for a second?”

“No problem!” they said. “Actually, we have a spare. Here, take it.”

They handed me the map and I unfolded it. It is at this point that I should admit to one of my biggest failings as an adult: I can’t read a map. I mean, I kind of can if you give me two hours and I can spin it around a few times, but otherwise? Nope. No can do. Especially not under a time crunch.

And especially, it turns out, not when the map is in German. Because yeah. It was in German. Because wouldn’t you end up with a map with places names in two languages you don’t read? Doesn’t that happen to everybody? (Tell me yes. Please?)

So I the train comes and I get on the one I assume is going into the city and I sit down and unfold my map and generally look like a completely lost little moron because that’s exactly what I am. The woman next to me takes a look at it and says, “Where are you going?” in a surprisingly American accent given that she is Thai.

I told her the name of the hotel, and she said, “Oh, no wonder you’re having trouble! It’s fairly new so it’s not on that map. I use to work there, though. Do you have a pen? I’ll write down the address in Thai. Get off the train at Sukhumvit and grab a taxi.” She tore a piece of paper out of a notebook, wrote something down, and handed it back to me.

“Thank you so much!”

“No problem! Have fun.”

So I folded the map up put it in my bag, and clutched the piece of paper she gave me for dear life. I got off the train at Sukhumvit station, got in a taxi, and handed the piece of paper to the driver. He read it, passed it back, and away we went!

And away and away and away.

There is a kind of terror I did not know existed until we lost sight of the city. When a city as large and well-lit as Bangkok disappears, that is when your confidence evaporates and you start to think that possibly you are not embarking on an adventures so much as you’re doing something dangerously stupid and you will wind up being a cautionary tale passed from expat mother to expat mother.

And then, out of nowhere, the hotel appeared. We pulled in, I paid the driver, and I walked up to the concierge desk.

“I’m looking for [redacted]. Can I get their room number?”

“Miss Gundle?” he said.

“Yes?” (I know my own name, but when other people know it and pronounce it correctly, I get very confused.)

“They’ve gone to dinner already, but they’ve left you a note.”

I’d missed them by about 10 minutes. They’d gone ahead to the restaurant, the note said, (Cabbages and Condoms, my favourite place in Bangkok), but they hoped I’d join them there.

Well, I mean, duh. I hadn’t come all this way and risked being sold into sex slavery or killed in a ritual sacrifice, or, I don’t know, ROBBED to not have dinner. Ever helpful, the concierge wrote down the address of the restaurant in Thai and handed it to me so I could give it to the taxi driver.

I went outside and got into the first taxi in the queue which happened to be the same taxi I’d taken to the hotel. Of course. I got in, said a quick, “Sawasdee ka,” and gave him the new address. He laughed. He laughed at me and I had no idea why but I laughed a little bit, too, and we started driving.

About ten minutes later, I understood why he laughed, and I started to laugh, too. The restaurant, it turns out, was a mere two blocks from the Skytrain station where he’d picked me up the first time. Because of course it was.

So at this point, I had a German map, two notes in Thai, and one note in English. And if that’s all I’d collected that night, it would have been fine. But the night kept going.

At dinner over prawn crackers and great curry Nat’s mom asked what we had planned.

“I think we said we were going to stop by Pat Pong,” Nat said. His mom’s eyebrows shot up, and no wonder. Infamous for strip clubs and pirated goods, it was not exactly where well-raised teenage boys should be hanging out. (Did I mention Nat was only 15? 16? Something like that? Because he was.)

“Don’t worry, I’ll take care of them. My mom banned me from taking them anyplace seedy.”

“Okay, good. Well, we’re headed to Chatuchak tomorrow, so don’t let them buy anything, okay?”

“No problem!”

Now, it was true that my mother had banned me from taking the boys (Nat and his 20-year-old cousin, Seth) to a strip club. But it is also true that banning me from doing something is the fastest way to make me want to do that particular thing more than I’ve ever wanted to do anything in my life. I had absolutely no desire to go to a Thai strip club, especially one famous for a Ping Pong Show, but being told I absolutely could not under any circumstances take my friend to one meant that my whole evening was planned around doing exactly that.

His family left us after dinner and we decided to have the full tourist-in-Bangkok experience. We took a tuk-tuk to Pat Pong and were horribly overcharged. The first guy that said, “Ping Pong Show?” got a firm nod and we followed him like oversized ducklings. We got to the door of the club and they told us the cover charge. 500 baht.

“I’m not paying 500 baht,” Nat said. “No way. I don’t want to see it that much.”

At this point, I thought we were lost for sure. We weren’t going to go and I was going to keep my promise to my mother and I could pretend to be a good daughter for another day.

I should have had more faith in Nat. I should have known that a teenage boy mere inches from a strip club could be trusted to find a way in.

Dude started to bargain like a champ. In the end we agreed to pay 200 baht but pay full price inside if we ordered anything to drink. We passed our money over and walked in the door to the seediest, most disgusting strip club I could have imagined. Bored girls with numbers attached to their bikini bottoms were swaying onstage, lightly holding the poles in front of them and rolling their eyes when they thought they could get away with it.

Honestly, I’m not even going to describe the show except to say that about halfway through it, Nat leaned over to us and stage-whispered, “Um…am I supposed to be turned on right now?”

“NO!” we both said. “No, trust me, this is NOT what sex is.”

“Oh. Okay. Good.”

The instant the show finished, we bailed and went to an Irish bar (because isn’t there always an Irish bar?). Before we left, though, I nabbed a coaster just to add to my collection of random stuff I’d accumulated over the course of my accidental scavenger hunt.

A few drinks later, we grabbed a taxi and went back to the hotel. The next morning at breakfast the boys were at the buffet and Nat’s mom and I were sipping coffee.

“Did you kids have a good time last night?” she asked.

“Yeah, it was a lot of fun!”

“Oh, good! You didn’t let them buy anything, did you?”

I flashed back to the girls dancing and all the different things you could pay them to do and shook my head.

“No, ma’am. I convinced them that anything they could buy last night they could find cheaper someplace else.”

Two skies, two storms, and a new set of stars

There is a storm coming. Thunderstorms arrive here after days of build up, coming in only after the air has grown so thick with moisture and the promise of rain that you wade through it. It sits heavy on your skin and you look at the sky and exchange the same words with every stranger you see.

“Is it going to rain?”

This means not just is it going to rain, but when is it going to rain and how long will it rain for and where is the storm we’ve been promised and how did we get so lucky. 

Southern storms are chaos and catharsis. They rage above your head, lighting the sky in flashes and the lingering brightness behind your eyelids that traces lightning bolts after they’re gone. They are a sudden release from the tension you didn’t realise you were carrying while you waited for the heat to break.

I never saw these storms in Scotland. I never felt the build up: rain was a constant, damp was forever. Rather than lay on top of you, it was in you, a deep chill that took days to disappear. It lingers in me even now, I can feel it when I see pictures of Edinburgh’s bright grey sky.

In fact, I don’t know that I’d ever say I felt a storm in Scotland. Rain, yes. But a storm that takes days to build and crashes through the sky, announcing itself for all to hear? No, I can’t say I ever felt one of our brash American storms out there.

Soon I’ll be buying a ticket to sleep under another set of stars, to grow familiar with another kind of weather. I will be by the water again, I will see the change from winter into spring. What do they call the haar there? What sound does the air make before the rain begins to fall?

And how many stars are there that I haven’t seen?

I’ve slept under southern skies before, I can find the cross, but I have never called them home. I have slept under northern stars for almost 29 years and though I couldn’t count them all, they are familiar. But I will be facing a different side of the universe, seeing the other half of the vastness of creation that I still cannot fathom. And yet two of the happiest nights of my life, two of the nights where I stopped and just let myself sit with the wonder and beauty and thrill of the world, two nights where magic felt real – they happened under southern stars. They happened in the blackest black of the night when I looked up at the enormous sky and thought that the whole world was designed for that moment.

I have missed the southern storms and I miss the Scottish skies, but even knowing that this adventure has meant letting go of other dreams, I am ready to sleep under strange stars again.

Relationship Insanity; or, Getting Tired of Making the Same Mistakes

The funny thing about being single in your late twenties is that people suddenly feel like they can – and should – give you advice. As if being single is some horrible disease and with the right combination of positive thinking and flat-out refusal to accept the diagnosis, you’ll be cured. It is so ridiculously fucked up that I’m not even really going to address it, except to say this: Back off. I mean it.

But the problem is, if you’re single and don’t really necessarily want to stay that way forever, you have to do something. Dating is up there with flat hunting and applying to new jobs in my Top 3 Most Demoralising Experiences on Earth, so that’s out. I’m bad at it anyways. I just want to get past the bullshit and be able to talk, and dating just seems to be rehashing the same boring bullshit small talk over and over and over. I’ve been on one good date in my life, and I’m 99% certain the reason it was good was because we both knew I was leaving.

However, clearly the way I’m doing things isn’t working, so I got on the phone with my best friend to try to sort this issue out/ask for her help. You see, she is the person who can consistently tell me why a relationship is going to end – but doesn’t. She knows me well enough to know I’m basically not going to do shit just because somebody else says I should, so she keeps her mouth shut. Which means she both knows me well enough to know what I need and she knows that it’s very different from what I want. So when it came time to try to figure this out, she was a natural person to talk to. And what she said was that kind of lightbulb moment that you see in cartoons when suddenly everything is illuminated.

“Sarah, the thing is, I think every girl is raised on the dream that a guy will change for them. But the thing with you is, they always change for you, at least for a little while. They try, and you see that and that’s the image of them you keep in your head. I know a lot of girls who will date douchebags because they’re smart and driven, and you at least know how to pick nice guys, so you’ve got the hard part down.”

She said that and it was like – yes. Yes, that’s exactly how it goes. I feel like I’m constantly dating guys who have to try – try to be what I want, try to keep up, try try try. They try past their natural inclination, and then orders of magnitude past that. And then they’re exhausted, but I’ve seen what they seem capable of and I keep pushing. And when they go back to who they naturally are, I get confused. And I push. And each time it doesn’t work, I get more frustrated until it all falls apart.

And I’m tired. I am. I’m so tired of feeling like I need to help somebody become. I’ve got my own work to do, my own set of things to work towards. I no longer have the emotional energy to put towards their becoming. I want to see proof now. I want to see that they have laid the groundwork.

But let’s be honest: I’m a sucker for the chrysalis stage. Becoming is fascinating, and if you add in a cute smile and good banter, I’m done. So I’m not doing this on my own anymore. A few trusted friends have been notified (in writing, because there’s nothing I love so much as a legally unenforceable contract) and we’ll see where things go from here. Maybe it’ll be a failed experiment, but the next time something sparks, I want to see if it’ll catch without me constantly fanning the flames.

When a big step forward looks like a giant step back

Tonight it felt like I was living my old life, the one where I was trapped on a conveyor belt being judged on my value-for-money for a global corporation and not on what I wanted to do.

That part of my life was so necessary, but I also was ready for it to be over. So I’m sure you can see that going straight back to it wasn’t exactly my dream when I signed up for my MSc. I wanted a different path entirely, and I was ready to drop everything for it. And, in the end, I did. I dropped my job and my car and my friends and my fear and my pretence. I dropped it all and became somebody who had learned to strip herself bare and expose the scariest parts to the world. Sans context, of course, but has that ever made writing less scary?

But adventures have a way of being more stubborn than I care to admit, and so I’m back, standing on the bridge I was careful not to burn, looking back on Scotland and waving. It looks so far away from here.

What I know now, though, that I didn’t know the last time I was here, is that this is a bridge. This is not my whole life, this is not my island. This is the place I can rest and save and enjoy the company of people I love dearly. This is no longer a restless place – it is a supremely restful one. And I’m grateful for that. I’m grateful that I am lucky enough to have a place like this, and friends like this, and a world like this. All too often we let things slip through our fingers before we even realise what we were holding, let alone that we’ve let it go.

So I will sit here and hold this part of my life gently and carefully and when the time for it is done I will set it aside very carefully so that, when I’m ready or when I have to, I can pick it up again and know that everything will be just fine.

You have better words than “fuck”, Sarah

No, no I don’t.

No, I don’t have better words than fuck. I don’t have them because they don’t exist. I don’t have them because words like fuck have the strength that I don’t. I can’t carry the weight of things without shuddering, but fuckFuck can take it. In fact, I can take the weight of them when I whisper/say/scream FUCK just as loud as I can or as quiet as I can.

I don’t have better words than fuck when I am angry or when I am sad or when I am scared. I don’t have better words than fuck when I want to tear my hair out (or yours). I don’t have better words than fuck when I see the inevitable coming and I know I can do nothing but hunker down and wait hoping that this, too, shall pass.

I don’t have better words than fuck because I have no use for them. I have no use for flowered-up language, for using five syllables when one perfect, shining, hard-stopping fuck will do. I have no use for softening myself or my reactions, and fuck is, if nothing else, an honest reaction.

Did you hear that? I don’t have better words for fuck because I don’t want them. If the word fuck has escaped my lips, be certain I do not care if I offend. If you hear me say fuck it is because I need the slow start of the “f”, the easily-stopped first consonant that could let people off with a warning. If you hear me say fuck it is because I need to extend the word, to draw it out with that smooth, soft “u”. If you hear me say fuck, if you hear it all the way to the end, it’s because I need something to stop just as hard and heavy and strong as the thoughts going through my mind.

I don’t have better words than fuck because my words do not depend on you or your opinions. My words are strong and harsh and simple, they are a constant re-arranging of the same 26 letters we’ve all been given access to.

Fuck. That’s a beautiful thing.

A brittle kind of peace

I’ve been trying to think of the word “brittle” lately. I knew we had a word that meant more than “fragile”, that implied that something was easily shattered, but it wouldn’t come to mind. It ran and I chased it, and I only just caught up.

Brittle is how I feel. The peace in my life right now – the knowledge that I did what I could, that the path I wanted isn’t meant for me – could shatter at any second and cut everybody around me when it breaks.

Most of the time, I’m living an adventure. Exploration has always been the name of the game, after all. Most of the time I think about the wide world opening up in front of me and I’m happy. Excited, even. For a while I let myself lose sight of it, I let myself think that settling down and putting down solid roots could be an adventure. I thought that it was going to be okay for me, that I’d be able to do it just right. And maybe I could have. Maybe I could have settled in, gotten comfortable. But visa restrictions being what they are, I couldn’t do it. I had to leave. And so I boarded a plane and told myself I’d be back one day.

I hope that’s true.

I’ve been in Sweden for the past week, recuperating. I’ve been sleeping as long as I need to, feeding my body good food, laying off the booze. I’ve been reading and writing and letting myself dream. And I’ve booked a ticket home.

What a funny word, “home”. What odd implications. I always thought it was the place you wanted to go back to. The place your adventures started from. But I think maybe Robert Frost is right – it’s the place that can’t turn you away. Scotland doesn’t want to be my home right now. I don’t want North Carolina to be my home. I want the whole damn world to be my home, I want Edinburgh to be my home. Can I have both? Can I explore and be rooted, especially to a place that won’t have me? I don’t know. I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know.

The people that tie me to a place have always been important. I’m going back to NC and I get to see some of the people I love most in the world – my family, my friends, my Amazons. I get to spend time with them and snuggle babies and meet new boyfriends and girlfriends and pets. And I get to do it knowing this is a temporary stop, and that makes it scarier and more precious.

I have a growing allergy to things. I am getting rid of them, giving them away, selling them when I can. I can’t stand the idea of stuff clogging up my life. I want to buy a backpack and wander. I wish I’d done it earlier, actually. I wish I’d downsized ages ago, then maybe it wouldn’t be so hard. Maybe I wouldn’t be so restricted. But I believed in the path I was on, and I embraced it whole-heartedly. And I believe in this path even more.

And so I am heading off into a world of adventure with a restless spirit and the knowledge that if I look back, I’ll turn to salt or shatter, and I think that maybe that’s exactly how it should be.

This damn book is following me

So every now and then a book seems to chase me. It hunts me down and refuses to be ignored until I buy it and finish it and love it. It’s kind of annoying. And it’s happening again.

This Is How You Lose Her is watching. Waiting. It’s insisting on being read. It’s on every list I read, it’s on every shelf in every bookstore I walk into. I woke up this morning to somebody posting some Buzzfeed list about beautiful lines in literature and this happened:

“The half life of love is forever.”
—Junot Diaz, This Is How You Lose Her

Well, fucking fine, Diaz. I’ll read your damn book. You just go ahead and put beautifully phrased truths out there and aggravate me to no end. Go ahead and make me ache early in the morning with things I can’t put into words and make me feel like I’ll never be a truly beautiful, insightful, talented writer. You just go ahead and do that, you talented jerk.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get ready for work and I have to do it earlier than normal so I can buy a damn book.

How do you measure time?

I was talking to my mom today and I was telling her that I’m trying to get out there and date again. After having my heart broken and nursing the wounds for almost a year, it’s time to think that maybe, possibly, somewhere out there a guy exists who is better than the one who left me. The one who will tell me he still loves me but can’t be with me, as if that will somehow make this easier instead of pouring an ocean’s worth of salt on the wound.

And at some point in our conversation, she told me I measure time in relationships. That my dad measures it in music – he will remember a time in part based on what songs were popular, as if his life has a playlist only he and the top 40 charts can remember – but I measure mine in men.

This is frighteningly true.

In a lot of ways, I’m fiercely independent. I will do what I want, when I want to – unless there is a guy in my life to take into consideration. And, spoiler alert: there is almost always a guy in my life. I remember some better than others, and some weave their way in and out of my life at different times, but there is almost always some guy at least in the background.

And that’s a weird thing to acknowledge. I want to say that I don’t need a guy, that I can live a perfectly happy life without one, and I am determined to make at least the latter half of that true. But I think I’m the kind of person that does need somebody – I think I’m better in a relationship. I’m more considerate, definitely. I have to squash the petty annoyances and selfish habits that I am prone to when I’m on my own, and I think that’s a good thing.

If things don’t work out the way I want them to – if I don’t get to stay here, if I can’t make Scotland see me the way I see it – I have a back up plan. And this is the first plan in 10 years that isn’t dictated by a guy. When I moved over here (partly for the guy I was seeing at the time), I said to anybody who would listen that New Zealand was my back up plan. If I couldn’t find a way to stay here, I’d go there.

“New Zealand is our back up plan,” my then-boyfriend once corrected me.

“Oh, yeah. Our back up plan. Sure.”

(You could say that’s proof that I *don’t* actually squash the selfish part of me when I’m in a relationship. I say it’s proof that I was already starting to understand that the relationship I was in wasn’t a good one.)

I still hope it doesn’t have to happen. I still want to stay here. But it’s nice to think that I could make a decision for myself for once. Because when I think about this year, there are two things that define it for me. Writing is the first – it was the primary goal when I came here: to give myself time to write and time to be around other writers. But the second? The second is an Irish guy with bright blue eyes who always remembered the things I told him (but let me tell him the same stories over and over anyways) and made me laugh even when I didn’t want to.

If I have to get over him, if I have to give up the place that I love most and move past the person I still want the most – well, I’m going to do it from someplace breathtakingly beautiful.

Daydreams and Nightmares

I’ve been indulging in some major self-pity lately. The problem with having a concrete goal is that you might fail to achieve it, and that’s a terrifying concept when you’re used to making the world do what you want it to. So instead I’ve been avoiding thinking about it, which turns it into the elephant in the room and elephants take up a lot of space and can accidentally crush your foot if you’re not careful.

I’ve been letting myself daydream. I think about the jobs I could get or the PhD proposals I could write or the mystery man that might see me and fall in love and ask me to marry him on the spot. I daydream of a job – not *a* job, but THE job. The job that combines everything I’ve done and everything I’m passionate about and wraps them up in a knot. I dream of it so often I can taste it. The job tastes like vanilla, like the tiny trace of a smell deposited on your tongue when you walk into an old bookshop. It tastes like the last drip of ice cream on a warm day when you have to rush to catch it and you shove the rest of the polystyrene-tasting cone in your mouth because there is no real point in eating the cone without the ice cream, is there?

I’ve been having nightmares lately. I wake up crying, panicked, barely able to breathe. What am I scared of? Leaving Edinburgh. Each morning when I wake up, chest heavy with the fear my subconscious is holding onto, I remind myself that I’m still here.

Still here. I’m still here.

These things are connected, I know it. I know that the fear and the longing and the job and the anxiety and the love – they’re all part of some big thing I have to do.

And the truth is, I know what I’m here to do. I’m here for books, I’m here for stories, I’m here to bring them into the world and give them to people. Not wrapped up like Christmas gifts, patiently waiting for bows to be unwrapped and paper to be torn. No. That’s not what books are. Books are the medicine you get in A&E when you’re so full of pain and fear nothing but the steady drip of relief the IV brings you will let you sleep. Books are vital. They are my love and my world.

And of course there’s that hope in me, buried somewhere down deep, that this city that I love might love me back. That it might want me as much as I want it, that it might see that what we have is special and undeniable and impossible to imitate. That this place that values books and words and the art of a good story might see that our hearts speak the same language and it might wrap its arms around me and whisper in my ear.

“Don’t let go,” I want it to say. “I won’t.”