08 January 2014

Cornered

Heading through rows of bookshelves through a silent library after a group study session, and I suddenly remembered and missed a different library, a different school, a different time.

It was a smaller library. I came by myself, studied by myself, left by myself. I took the stairs to the 3rd floor every day because that was the highest and (in my mind) the most removed from people. Students called it the "flirt floor." I made a habit of glaring at my computer screen and was never bothered. Except once. I cut off his attempt with perfunctory precision.

Today I had the sudden urge to drop my backpack, sit against one of the walls in the library, pull out a book and start writing. Feelings, scene, story, journal, letter, it didn't really matter. I used to do it. Years ago, at school in Idaho. An idea would come, a feeling would rise, and I'd drop and write while waiting for class or a test. Or maybe because I was at school alone and had no one to go home to every day. I would convey, express, capture. Some of my best, most free-coming work I wrote sitting against the walls of random corners of campus.

One particular day, while waiting for Spanish class, I squeezed myself into a random corner in a narrow hallway and pulled out something to study. But the protruding corner of wall right next to me caught my eye: a fist-sized portion of tile had been chipped away, leaving the mortar behind it exposed like a gaping gray, bloodless wound. It brought a scene to mind, and I dropped my homework and wrote the scene instead. I still read it, years later, remember the freeness of feeling and pen, and smile.

Today in the library, though, I didn't drop. Because I'm older and, apparently, have more pressing things to do and places to go.

But I'm writing now. In a different library. Granted, on a laptop rather than a notepad.

Because while I was driving, nostalgia struck again. A Michael Martin Murphy song I didn't know I still had started playing on my iPod, and I remembered and missed a family road trip down winding red-rock roads to the Grand Canyon. I was sitting in my seat, fourth row back, far left in our van. Everyone knew it was my seat. Closed off from any responsibility to the world around me. Some of my best written work came from writing in that little corner too while listening to my dad's music—Michael Martin Murphy included.

All my own little worlds. The ones I found in my cramped apartment bedroom—the smallest and furthest removed from any other spot in the apartment; the ones I created in corners in the Smith building; the ones I escaped to in the corner seat of the van; the ones I dreamed up in that special corner of the campus gardens, behind thick foliage, where I retreated to the tea table next to the lily pond and just closed my eyes, listened, dreamed, wished, wrote and forgot about homework, money, loneliness, lectures … almost everything else in the world around me.

I'm not so much an escapist anymore …

But I'm writing because I missed those little worlds today. And couldn't get around missing them.

Today marks the third day of my last semester of classes. And I must be feeling out of my comfort zone. Missing the simpler life of undergraduate school where daydreaming of far-off (and yet tantalizingly close in my imagination) love and Stories gave pleasure to the doldrums of being a teenager alone in an unfamiliar place too big for me. Missing the whimsy of abandoning the real world for a few minutes and, at random, scrunching into corners or out-of-the-way spots and creating a different, refreshing world that, somehow, seemed more real and friendly than the other, because I was its Creator and it carried my heart and imagination.

I'm at a different university. It's bigger; yet I don't feel lost in it. I have my own car; and I sit in the front seat and drive it. I work with people now rather than alone. I connect with them constantly—face to face or via media.

I've grown into myself lately, I guess. Or, at least, I've grown into the real world; we fit each other better. But there's no waiting around now. No more quiet corners. No more abandoning the here-and-now and creating the what-should/could-be. I don't scrunch away from it now; I shrug and face it. My eyes trump my imagination; responsibility wins out over whimsy; and people seem harder to truly retreat from.

And today that younger, simpler, solitary-girl part of me peeked out of this grown-woman exterior. And missed the quiet corners.

So she cornered me. And we compromised. She writes. On my medium. Not a story. But feelings, at least.

Perhaps if we do this enough we'll grow into each other too. And find some level of symbiosis that satisfies us both.

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