On my 10 year high school reunion I flew East, not West. I said “marhaba” to the Emirates border guard at passport control – perhaps even as the party wound down. I worry about the things that Homeland Security will say to me when I do, indeed, have a chance to go home. I worry about lots of things – when I have the energy to do so.
Maybe it’s for the best that I didn’t go to a bowling alley with my old classmates, to engage in (moderate) drinking and small-talk, or big-talk, for that matter.
I was an unhappy child. Lots of immigrants with big ambitions make for unhappy children. We always want too much, maybe because we have understood that the world is so much bigger and stranger than first meets the eye. My unhappiness started elsewhere of course, but in Carolina, I had the time to catch my breath and consider it. In freshman year of college, a professor called depression “middle-class.” It struck me as patronizing – but then again, depression is what actually happens when you have a chance to reflect on how being chased by the saber-toothed predator has made you feel.
I considered other things, of course. I understood this plane of existence has more stage exits and entrances than meets the eye when sitting on the warm asphalt in Krishma’s driveway once upon a time, a decade ago. There were too many stars to bear. How is it that we were allowed to live these lives, I wonder, some of the best lives in this dark world and wide, and not pay a price – whether it be leaving, or living past some point of no return, or even dying soon enough for it to be considered a proper tragedy?
I know all of my classmates. The ones who rock a silk tie, the ones whose amiable nature hides a long distance between their smile and their secret core, the ones who have occupied big houses where you curl up like a fish before the current takes you, the ones I miss, and the ones who miss me. I have always tried to be more like them, although which one I can never tell – just the general “them,” I guess, and that was probably smart. Because otherwise, when you stand on the raggedy edge long enough, you become raggedy yourself.
There was so much unexpressed love in me when I graduated from Charlotte Latin School. It’s why I married a man who can love me like a boy should love me, on occasion. And it was my classmates who taught me that love and who inspired it, like Jane Morris with her seriously wanton curls (except not destitute). I’ll always be grateful for that, unless dementia overtakes me in my old age and I forget.
I live in a lovely garret, if garrets can be lovely, and from there I can look out onto the world and consider it, and wave down occasionally, when I am not busy. I watch your lives unfurling from afar, like banners in the wind. I am often pleased with what I see – although we’re in that age, when we can make each other smile as opposed to shake our heads, no? I think too much on most days and sleep too little, but I am very happy – and glad that the planet has gotten small enough for me to still hold on to the illusion of knowing you guys. My son is blubbering again in his sleep, and my husband is in the Urals, ice rain is pounding cheerfully and mercilessly on the cornice, and this letter should probably be over.
Be good to yourselves. Live now – not tomorrow, or yesterday (maybe you already do, and this advice is totally misplaced – but for some reason, I learned this bit the hard way, and am over-eager to share it, the way over-excited poodles are over-eager to share their affection). And take a minute to pause in the dark every once in a while and say “thank you” to whoever is telling the story that is the world and all of our lives in it to himself.