My mental location, that abstract space that is either black or exploding with black-tinted colors when eyes closed, is somewhere caught between two texts. As an English teacher, and lit enthusiast, I often well in the worlds of authors who convey experiences both near and far from my own. Today, this week, perhaps this month, I’m floating somewhere between the slow-moving, exquisitely detailed portrayal of a man’s consciousness as he meets death as articulated by Poe, and the comical, yet painful life of an adolescent Native American boy relayed by Alexie.
I’m in somewhat of a physical bubble for the second time, though I’m just reaching the peak of young adulthood. In order to illustrate my vantage point, it seems imperative that I acknowledge that I’m only sort of existing — a quasi-existence if you will. The “in-between.” A place not dissimilar from the Upside Down from Netflix’s “Stranger Things.” Light is not consumed by darkness, but I’m certain other things dissipate when trying to pass through the fence that bars me, and those around me, from the world.
I live with three other 20-something-year-olds in a large home on a street called Main in a city called Lawrenceville at an elite boarding school. During my first two weeks here, I walked up and down the same road between my home and center of campus five times a day. I passed the same house, the same fields. I avoided the same cracks and the same potholes, and waved to the same nameless shadowed figures in cars. It was monotonous, tedious almost, but splendidly predictable. Wonderfully secure. Tremendously boring.
This space is casting a fog between “reality” and me. As I was driving down I-95 — returning home to Philadelphia — it felt as if some thick, filmy substance was subsiding. I realized I had truly been elsewhere.
Inspirational could describe my place of work. Every day these students are told that they can, and despite how stressful this rigorous academic environment can get, the majority of these students will. And this, I find, is inspirational.
Yet there is something deafening about pure hope. Something is drowning in all the cheers; something not illuminated by all the bright light. Perhaps it’s a critical approach to reality, or a real approach to reality. If I feel subdued in this place, somehow blocked off from, well, everything, where am I?
It is my inability to answer this question that brings me to my books; to let myself be engrossed by the fictional, dramatized, and imagined lives of strangers who can still reach me. For some reason, I currently dwell here: the miserable, drawn-out, delirious experience of death and the humorous and tortuous experience of being a teenage boy. I know neither of these worlds. But there is a human link between them and me. Especially when all else beyond I-95 seems to have fallen away. All of reality has become a fiction in of itself, as unbelievable and fantastical as the upside down.
Editor’s note: This story is part of our September 2016 series ‘Hundreds of Words about Location: Where are you, and how does it affect how you see the world?’
Victoria, originally from Philadelphia, currently resides in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, where she teaches English Literature to high school students. (She has in fact betrayed her city, but she’s over it so you should be too). Her passions include reading poetry, crafting small things with friends and talking about her first-born plant, Ferb. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.