on books, bikes, and bridges to my past: has it been four years already?

considering today’s date, one might have thought i would wake up emotional, but when my eyes opened this morning, nothing felt particularly different. my covers were kicked halfway off the bed; my room was a mess, most of my suitcase’s contents dumped onto the floor after last night’s half-hearted attempt to unpack; and my fan was oscillating in a dejected manner. the sun blazed brightly outside, and my laptop hummed on my carpeted floor. and i felt the strong urge to turn over and go back to sleep.

like i said, nothing out of the norm.

it’s been quite some time since i’ve written in here, so i’ll try and quickly summarize the past… year of so of my life. in my last entry, i was just beginning my seven month teaching contract in paris, fraught with all the difficulties and frustrations that go hand in hand with uprooting yourself and moving to a foreign country, and teaching students who speak a language in which you’re not yet 100% fluent. living in france was sometimes a whirlwind of parties and champagne and skipping along the seine, and at other times a dark, daunting look into the human psyche, or more specifically, mine, and wondering things like “why am i here?” “what am i doing with my life?” “how can i live amongst a city of strangers with whom i can’t fully interact and what am i doing on this cold grey earth that us mortals are doomed to traverse until the eventual end of our monotonous days…?!” ultimately, it was what it was, which is to say, un-summarize-able.

when i returned, i agreed to sublet an apartment with one of my best friends, and spent a month and a half frolicking around brooklyn with the careless, joyous air of the young and unfettered–we danced barefoot to bhangra music in brooklyn bridge park, ran shrieking through the sand and seawater in coney island at 4 am, nursed hangovers lying in bed, half moaning, half laughing hysterically at our rowdy, disorganized lives. it was gloriously fun, the kind of fun that can never last too long.

i was awarded a brief delay from the sadness of moving out of new york and back to jersey with a week-long trip to orlando, florida for leakycon, this year’s harry potter convention (and my fifth, if anyone cares to know). to describe leakycon would require an entirely different entry, so i won’t even try. just know that it was one of the best, and most intense, weeks of my life. i truly love my potter family. but more about them later.

so now i’m back, in quiet, boring new jersey, and find myself staring into the black, gaping maw of unemployment.

i began my day with the express intention of editing, yet again, my resume and cover letter, sending them to my parents for feedback, and utilizing career builder and monster and craigslist and linkedin and everything, anything, the internet had to offer. in case you were wondering, i am finally pursuing my dream of being a writer (or editor, or both), but before that, i would like to learn about the publishing industry from the inside out. therefore i am on the hunt for an entry-level position at a publishing house (preferably one devoted to children’s or young adult fiction), a task that quickly grows tiresome and boring, because i have a short attention span and even less patience. but alas, for my dream, i must persevere.

an idea struck–write to my favorite authors. ask them for advice. as much as i read and obsess over books, i am frightfully lax when it comes to getting in touch with the authors and expressing my thanks and admiration. i decided to change that today. and as i wrote, the memories came rushing back…finishing what happened to lani garver (carol plum-ucci) on my way home from school in my dad’s car, tears streaming down my face; sitting in an awestruck daze after putting down dreamland (sarah dessen); positively howling with laughter while reading how i paid for college (marc acito); swooning right along with jessica over dreamy/druggie marcus flutie in sloppy firsts (megan mccafferty); discovering something new in every single reading of the perks of being a wallflower (stephen chbosky). i wouldn’t say i was unpopular growing up; i had many friends and was always the first to suggest starting a club or organization of some sort, such as my short-lived babysitter’s club in fourth grade (thanks to the wonderful series of the same name by ann m. martin) or bringing a blank notebook to school that my friends and i could exchange notes in–and for which i’d eventually receive an irate phone call home–(courtesy of harriet the spy by louise fitzhugh, although to be honest, i’ve only ever seen the movie–shh). but the books that i’ve read and loved as a curious child, moody preteen, sullen teenager, and now, clueless 20-something, are, have always been, and will always be, an integral part of who i am. they aren’t just bindings and pages and blobs of ink, they’re friends; the stories affect me in ways that many relationships with actual people never can. they’ve been my anchors, my shelter, and yes, my home; and these connections, more than anything, are what inspire me to want to create the same magic for a new generation of readers.

you may have been wondering why i mentioned today’s date as being significant. july 21, 2007, is a day that i nor many of my friends will ever forget–it is the day that harry potter and the deathly hallows (the last book in the harry potter series by j.k. rowling) was released. this series, more than the hundreds, thousands, of books i’ve devoured and loved, has undoubtedly meant the most to me. the characters have grown up with me, lost loved ones with me, and i have grown to love them like family. but the truly special thing about these books is how they’ve led to meeting people that are now some of my best friends. the community i’ve found through harry potter goes far beyond a story about a boy with a scar, it’s a huge group of people who have not allowed the inevitably of aging, the evil and prejudice rampant in this world, or the negativity and condescension of their friends and family deter them from believing in the importance of imagination, of love, of friendship, of standing up to fight for what’s right. and while i  know that the ending of this series does not mean the ending of  said community, there it still a definite sense of something being lost.

after sending out a few emails, i decided to go to library and check out some of the latest YA fiction. it had been quite awhile since i’d been to my local library; so long, in fact, that i had no idea where my card was. when i walked up to the desk to replace it, i was handed a looking white card with a new, snazzy design, completely different than the perfunctory burgundy one i’d been accustomed to. i turned it over and brought to the librarian’s attention that the back was still bare, expecting him to hand me a sticker with my name and address so i could attach it to the card, but to my confused inquiry he simply replied, “that’s it, you’re done. we don’t do that anymore.” i paid, thanked him, and walked away, trying to quell the peculiar feeling that came over me. it was just a library card, right? and there certainly was no law stating all librarians had to be women over the age of 60, so for no reason should the young man who had helped me contribute to my feeling of unease.

it wasn’t just the surprisingly young librarian, or my new library card: it was the entire library. entire sections had been shifted, so it was hard for me to locate what i was looking for; books i could have found blindfolded, before, now eluded me. i went into what was previously the fantasy section and found rows of computers, their owners looking up at me curiously when i walked in, as i was probably wearing a dumbfounded expression, my arms full of books. i understand that computers being in libraries aren’t exactly state-of-the-art, but still…why hadn’t anyone warned me that my library was so different?!

as i rummaged in my bag for the keys to my car, i was transported to the hot july afternoons of years and years before, when instead of dropping my messenger bag onto the passenger seat, i was zipping up my backpack and pulling it securely onto my back. i was entirely too young and inexperienced to be shifting a gear into reverse and backing out of my parking spot; rather, i was swinging one skinny leg over my bike and pedaling out of the lot and taking my secret shortcut through the tiny path between the trees. i glanced at it as i turned the air conditioner up high and steered the opposite way towards the busy main road; that path had been closed for years now.

when i pulled up to my house, my dad was  filling up one of the tires on my car, sasha, who’s stuck with me faithfully since 2005. i dropped my bag of books through the passenger window, telling him about the disturbing newness of my old library, when my eyes fell upon a welcome sight: my old bike. he was probably puzzled when i abruptly ended the conversation and walked into the garage, ducking beneath a spiderweb and wheeling it out without hesitation. i could not, try as i might, remember the last time i’d ridden any bike, much less my bike, the one that’s seen me through who knows how many adventures.

i can’t describe what it felt like to hop onto that bike and sail out of my driveway and down the street, legs working furiously, and then stand on the pedals, feeling the wind rush past my face, zooming in a circle around the cul-de-sac where my friends and i used to do figure eights and hold races when they would come over. i made a right and cruised down another street, the one where we used to pick blackberries and yes, eat the fallen ones off the ground, as long as we deemed them clean enough (don’t tell my mom). i made another right to ride around a small block, and by this point, my body was already beginning to protest this sudden onset of physical exertion. i couldn’t believe it. i used to ride around my neighborhood for hours, and after not even five minutes i was already out of breath? in retaliation, i rode past my house again on my way back, focused on going down the first drop of “deadman’s hill”, just once, and take both hands off the handlebars as i used to, mindlessly, when i was young. i managed it for about three seconds before i wobbled and slammed them back on, laughing breathlessly. i watched 8 year old carla and her friends and cousins zoom off, whooping as they crested the second hill and listened to them shouting to each other while fading out of sight. then i turned and wearily pedaled home, positively collapsing, a sweaty heap of nostalgia, into my car.

i am 23 years old. i am woefully out of shape, i have no job, no money, and, as the song says, my “love life’s D.O.A.”. but i’ll be damned if i allow the end of my childhood to equal the end of my ability to remember. and i don’t just mean spouting off the cartoons i watched on saturday mornings, what schools i went to, and what my GPA was.

i want to remember the sound of the screen door as it banged against the frame again and again, admitting the thundering footfalls of me and my friends as we rushed into the house. the taste of macaroni and cheese with cut up hot dogs mixed in, although i don’t eat either of those things anymore. how i felt when i got the phone call while working at my college bookstore that my dog, kola, had died. the fascinated bewilderment of watching the skin of my index finger part and the blood pour out, my two year old mind struggling to put together the correlation between the pain and the sharp, shiny silver object i had been playing with a second before. the overwhelming ecstacy of coming downstairs on christmas morning to find a brand new kitchen and laundry room set, so much that i didn’t think my body could possibly contain it. the bone-deep, gut-wrenching fear of the creature i knew would awaken and try to grab and eat my legs as i made the terrifying journey from my room to my parents’ room upstairs after a nightmare. hot chocolate before bed. my father singing to me. my mother reteaching me how to walk after years of slouching. the opening notes of “hedwig’s theme”, which i now find myself absentmindedly humming to the fussy babies i babysit. my princess jasmine bedsheets. the guest room to the left of mine, and how each of my older siblings had their own distinctive scent that would linger after they had gone, back to their exciting, mysterious lives, leaving me alone in the house that now seemed unbearably big. how i would sometimes sit in there and cry, missing them so badly it ached.

these are the memories i grasp, the ones that i know to be the fuel for creating worlds as rich and complex as the one that comprised my life growing up, and the ones that i plunged into, again and again, every time i opened another book. so i’m sad to say goodbye, but then again, i’m not saying goodbye, not really. i’m bringing them to life again, just through my words. and when i have touched just one child the way my beloved books have touched me, i’ll know i’ve made it.

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4 thoughts on “on books, bikes, and bridges to my past: has it been four years already?

  1. venicebruce says:

    So poignant…brings tears to my eyes. Glad I’m a part of the memories

  2. upstreamer says:

    someplace around here is the proof of you being less than three years old when you joined the library.
    what’s unique about that had to do with the condition that unless a child could read, she or he could not enjoy the privilege of a library card
    that trace of prodigy in you still points to the exemplar you are
    the proof of which, i realize
    is yet to be fully realized, and may very well happen
    after I’m gone

    so sorry for the lonely years
    of practically being an only child

  3. Blanca says:

    I love reading the musings of a beautiful and oh so smart young woman who is coming into her own.
    There’s nothing like traveling to a foreign land and living among strangers to discover yourself. You are one of the blessed ones who was afforded this opportunity and will reap the rewards of this experience for a lifetime….. and now back to reality!! There’s nothing like looking for a job to bring you back but you still have the memories. I sense a writer amongst us with a memoir to follow….

  4. […] Capital letters, and I totally dig it. She’s reviving her blog and has started off with this little gem of a post. If you stop by, you probably should mention to her that I’ve never read or seen anything […]

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