July 24, 2008

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

"Let me be something every minute of every hour of my life. Let me be gay; let me be sad. Let me be cold; let me be warm... Let me be truthful; let me be a liar. Let me honorable and let me sin... And when I sleep, let me dream all the time so that not one little piece of living is ever lost."

- Betty Smith
Dear Mr. X,

Here lies next to me your old copy of "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." Last summer, I picked it off a shelf from a small bookstore in a far-off country, where it lay between books nobody in said country had probably ever heard of. 

I had read "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" the summer before then and liked it a great deal. I like to do that with books, although many consider it pointless-- if I like a book I borrowed from the library, I buy my own copy. I personally do it because I think that every book that "speaks" to me ends up becoming a part of me. A part of my history. So, I like to keep my history close by, in case I ever need a friend in the past.

The particular tiny bookstore I had found it in is located in a small, provincial shopping area, which in turn is located in a city which makes up the deepest layer (and most unfamiliar layer) of earth where I have my roots.

That summer, I had found myself in my roots very suddenly, and I was still reeling from having become so unhinged from reality as I had always known it. So when I saw "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" sitting tired and squished on the shelf, it was like I had found a friend. 

I found a bit of my own history in the place that held the history of my ancestors, yet was completely and utterly alien to me. In that moment, I felt a little less displaced and thinly spread. You unwittingly tied me back in place. 

I opened the book to the first page, and there I found your name, scrawled in ink in a penmanship that suggests forgetfulness. The "n" in your surname almost didn't make it. I realized then that although I had been tied back in place, there was a long string still floating around from you. 

Summer came and went, and I went off to another hemisphere to go to school, far away from home. I forgot about the string: I was uprooted once again. Yet this time, it was of my own accord. I ended up in the place where you and I claim our citizenship, but where I do not find my home. But I eventually made my own, thousands of miles away from any family. And it was good.

At the end of the school year a few months ago, I found myself in a strange position: I was told I would not be able to go back to my true home. This strange country that claims me as theirs was where I would have to make a new home with my family. But of course, I had no choice. 

When all of my books came, they were in one box. The history of me was in one box. 
And I rediscovered your old book. I remembered the string upon seeing your almost-doctor's signature. And I looked you up. And lo and behold, you live in a city that isn't too far from where my home is. 

Your book has come a long way. It's practically been around the globe twice, only to come back to the place where you-- and now I-- call home.

The string is tied.