I’ve been spending time with friends every day since fleeing New York to my home in suburban Maryland. There are at least twenty of us—old friends and new—in my bedroom at any given moment, constantly bumping into one another and crowding each other’s space. It’s strange, as I’m not usually a social butterfly. If I’ve learned anything lately, though, it’s that unexpected things happen whether we like it or not.
We go out a lot. The newer faces—the ones I haven’t encountered before—urge exploration the most. I’ve traversed around London with Eleanor Oliphant (who is completely fine) in Gail Honeyman’s book of the same name. Zadie Smith showed me around her stomping grounds in Italy— her personal place of reconnaissance and rediscovery—through her essays in Feel Free. I’ve congregated in Tokyo with Keiko Furukura in Convenience Store Woman, and paraded through my favorite DC hangs alongside the Bloch family in Here I Am, finding solace amongst characters completely like and unlike myself. It’s tiring jumping from place to place within a matter of days. The escape is worth it.
As wonderful as these new experiences are, I still like familiarity. I’ve been surrounding myself with souls who’ve been there since high school: J. D. Salinger, Stephen Chobosky, Patti Smith. We talk frequently, their stories are just as comforting as I remember them to be. I’ve grown a lot since our first get-togethers, and see their words from a new place of experience. I’m more sympathetic to Holden Caulfield’s behavior, more understanding of Charlie’s anxiety in Perks. They still mean something all the same, bringing me back to past moments and memories. It’s nice, especially now, to know that some things don’t change.
All of us always end up back home. We stay together as the sun hangs in the sky outside my window. We watch it rise every morning, illuminating my bookshelf and all its inhabitants first. We watch it set every night too, when it feels like we’re the only ones left in the world. It’s been hard to sleep lately. They’re good at keeping me company when I’m awake when I shouldn’t be. Their words are my only adventure and biggest comfort, second only to their mere presence, the fact that they’ll always be here. In the midst of chaos, that’s the sweetest relief of all.
Image by Amber Duan