. . . Then, a few weeks later, she sent another email with a question. And it was this question that I wanted to talk with you about today. She wrote that she wanted to have her main characters fall in love. But there was a problem. “I’m only thirteen,” she wrote, “and I don’t know what falling in love feels like, other than in books.” . . .
. . . Sometime last year, I was informed that I was too old to use the word “dude” in public. Even ironically. Never mind that this only made me more likely to show up at school pick-up saying things like, “Dude! How was your day?” The point had been made: I was officially becoming embarrassing. . .
. . . What you’ll learn later—what the fog and the cold cement and the trees can’t tell you yet—is that the world really is full of meaning, but not necessarily the meaning you most want to be true. Sometimes, it seems, the world harmonizes, and you find a message someone long ago scratched in wet concrete, now dried and scuffed and gum-stuck with meaning just for you as you sit on a cold cement step in the fog. But mostly the world just exists, and nothing matters, and the universe is not, in fact, preparing you for anything. And yet you will find yourself prepared. . .
. . . I'm expecting to see her usual “I LOVE YOU MOMMy” or “EMi LOVES MOMMy.” But next to the cat is a paper that says, “NO CAT.” Next to her sleeping baby brother is a paper that says, “NO NATE.” She thrusts a paper in my hand, and it says, “NO MOMMy.” She sticks a paper on herself that immediately drops to the floor. It says, “NO EMi.” “What is this, Em?” I ask. “Stop it!” she says. “I'm making a trail!” . . .
. . . When I moved in, she had the room fixed up nicely. Would I mind that her earthquake-preparedness kit was stashed in my closet, would I still have enough room? My sweaters and wrinkly shirts dangled sparsely over her bottled water, a brick wall of PowerBars. In front of the floor-to-ceiling picture window was a table with a small potted plant on it. This is your welcome-to-your-new-home present, she said, a way for you to gauge how kind to yourself you are. I was taken aback. The responsibility of the plant daunted me, and I was afraid it showed. . .
. . . Stuffing the T-shirts in drawers, I am reminded that Sysiphus received this punishment for loving life too much, for having the gall to wheedle his way out of the underworld and then refuse to go back. The Gods did not take kindly to that. But Sysiphus did not want to go under, and neither do I. I do not want to be lost in the mundane. I do not want to be submerged. And so of course that’s where I am. Sysiphus and I, our pride got us where we are. . .