- When my sister goes away to college, I am now and again in Williamsburg with my mother. She is busy, and I walk across the street to a coffee shop. It’s small and quiet and I settle in because, like Goldilocks, I’ve found a place that’s just right. I’ve slipped soundlessly into a quiet time in my life when there is no Internet, no boys, no margin of error. I order a raspberry bar, sweet and decadent with a crumble on top. I sit and pretend – like when I go to the library where my mother works – that I am a part of this sophisticated university with a very nice book, a small treat and all the time in the world to myself.
- I board the #6 Broad Street bus on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It hums and rumbles and moves, a stormcloud that makes its way back and forth, east to west across Richmond. I sit alone, forehead pressed against the cool glass, scanning the passing faces and bodies, shops and sidewalks. It’s neither too hot or cold this afternoon, eventless, and the city is lazing about. All ages board, and all ages part. I glance up as I realize that the bus is stopping to rest at the farthest part from where I’ve started. The driver and I exchange glances, and something passes between us. For him: suspicion, confusion, a little wonder because it’s so clear I have no destination. For me: a question that keeps arising for months now, and that is what could be wrong with me.
- There’s a book at the university bookstore. It looks fun with bright colors and small annotations designed in the pages, like it’s been drawn in for me. It says, “Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics.” I read the first two pages and when I walk to the counter to buy it, I feel like I am breathing for the first time. I am alone and not alone, grateful for this moment where I can touch that frantic, clawing creature in my chest and say, Shh. It’s all right. Now we know.
- The world welcomes me like a quiet friend. I walk miles in Washington DC, creating figure eight footprints at the zoo and only going to the parts of the Smithsonian I like. In San Diego, I spend countless minutes staring out at the Pacific Ocean, open my arms and let the smell of it love me like I love it. In New York, I let the busy energy carry me like a leaf, jump into cabs, jump out again. When I drive, I howl out the window. I stop when I need to, but mostly I soak. I bask. I speak to no one, and I open my ears to everything. There is no nest, there is no shell, not for me. I just go.
- We are learning to dance. Instead of steps, we have words, and I try not to step on his toes. I am waltzing around him to show the space that is necessary between our bodies, to explain how we can still touch without invasion. We are both beginning to understand that leading is an illusion, that each is dependent on the other for connection, cohesion. We can be graceful or have two left feet; sometimes there is no fixing, and we have to step away. But after a time, we always come back together, touch hands and one and two and one and two and –