I started planning this entry on I-40 East coming home from Nashville. That has been my nice surprise of the month: I got to spend this past week in Missouri at my grandparents’, which you will have heard about in entries like this one and especially this one.
I didn’t bring my little computer at all and so was basically sans internet and mostly sans phone for over a week. I sat in the Raleigh airport a week ago Friday waiting for my flight and my head was spinning. I had just finished powering through season two of Mad Men at such a rate that sitting there I kept thinking every man I saw was Don Draper. Not that North Carolina boys are a bad-looking lot, but my, my, Alice, let’s not get carried away. My brain was fairly addled, and I felt disembodied. I felt as if I was no longer quite in possession of a self.
So here’s what I did all week: I read Tolkien, I washed a few windows, and I worked on a story. I had one white night, I watched one Jimmy Stewart movie, and I cooked some beans. I cleaned my grandma’s cabinets and went to Walmart only twice. One lovely afternoon I floated in the pool with a book and a milkshake from Tastee Treat.
I woke up a little, I think. It was a slow waking. I did not notice that I felt particularly different. Perhaps I was simply spending less time noticing myself and more time noticing the breeze on the dam of an afternoon, how many pages I had managed to fill in my little notebook, and marvelous quotes from the Hobbit to copy into it, though what I am writing is not at all a conventional adventure story. All hearty things for a kid in my condition—nothing like a computer screen to make you dwindle.
Then on Friday evening I sat in my aunt and uncle’s house watching the opening ceremonies and at the soaring shots of the countryside and the sound of the children’s choirs, I felt a near-forgotten longing. By the time all those Mary Poppinses floated down to vanquish Voldemort I had nearly lost my head.
I wanted to go. Karen and I had planned since we were sixteen to go to the 2012 Olympics. We were supposed to be there! What was I doing watching it from the couch? At the very least I was supposed to be headed there to study abroad this year. Off to visit the dear homeland of the Pevensies, the Bastables, the Mennyms, Pongo and Lady, the BFG and every other dear friend. (There is no faster way to my heart than British children’s literature.)
And thus it was that without warning I found myself saying to my mom in the car yesterday: “What if I got a job in England next summer?” Because, of course, I need money, (even at the end of this summer, I’m still scrambling for work,) but maybe I can quietly trick my scared little self into an adventure, if I make the arrangements fast, before myself notices.
I have often felt frightened and trapped and every miserable thing for the last year or so, but in the words of the indomitable Bilbo Baggins when he is trapped in a dark tunnel, lost from his friends and pursued by narsty, narsty goblins:
“Go back? No good at all! Go sideways? Impossible! Go forward? Only thing to do! On we go!”
He does not even think of standing still.