It is very difficult for me to get into new things. I want to hear the songs I know. I want to be comforted by the shows I loved. I want to be transported by passages from a favorite novel. When my music app plays a new song I get immediately perturbed, and head for the “next” button. If I’m not in a very precise mood after completing a show, I can’t embark on a new, untrustworthy series. I’ll likely just rewatch The West Wing, and wrap the chuckling, teary-eyed self-righteousness around me like the throw that lays across my couch. It’s warm, it’s old, and it’s from an ex boyfriend, but the warm fuzz-ly memories are of my own making.
It is new books specifically that give me longest pause. It feels like a dangerous investment, and not just because of the length of time it takes. I can sit through a TV show that I don’t love: I sat stone-faced and bored through a weeks long binge of 30 Rock, waiting to be enamored with this well-written, acclaimed comedy. In retrospect, it’s fun to quote, and knowing it fortifies the pop cultural literacy that I hold dear, but no true love ever bloomed. Yet, I found it to be a passable experience. My heart didn’t stir, but I have no regrets.
Except Julianne Moore’s ‘Boston’ accent. I think we all regret that.
It may be the attention investment as opposed to a time one. Obviously, I can spend weeks on a show, but really, what am I doing? I’m brushing up on my Spanish in Duolingo and reading the news and talking to my dog and tweeting while Tracy Morgan’s voice wafts somewhere between background and foreground, admonishing the Blue Man for having no feet.
I can’t pick up a new book and give real attention to much else, so I worry that it won’t be worth it: The threat of tangled prose, childish themes and overwrought metaphors is imminent, and lies between two hard covers.
It’s a wonder that I ever consume anything new.
After all: I can pick up Mrs Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and be transported to the hammock in Jamaica where I first cracked open its pages. The air is heavy with wet and I am alone together with two old friends and the familiarity of years fills the easy silence.
Or I can pull Old Magic from my shelf and be a teenager back in Philadelphia. I’m spending the weekend with my grandmother, who has a new house and has given me my own room there. She’s bought me a lamp I’d found at a dark warehouse of a place. It was across from the track where I’d spent all my summer afternoons. It sits next to the bed in my room, and is shaped like a blooming flower. Touching one leaf turns the light from dull to bright to white-out. The latter is handy when the plot gets particularly foreboding. The bed is plush, the covers are tight and I am blissfully lost as soon as I revisit its pages.
Almost-monthly meetings with wine, food, and crafts, aside, my Book Club is a rare treat in that it pushes me to new literary frontiers. I’d have never read any Gillian Flynn if I’d not been tasked with Sharp Objects months ago. This discovery led me to Dark Places, which led me to Gone Girl, and unfortunately, that’s where the originality train comes to a stop.
There is a single line in Gone Girl in which the characters are called two “needful things.” Given the subject matter, (bleak, disturbing, hyperbole grounded in intense, self-aware reality) I think, this must be a reference to the Stephen King book of the same name. Thoughts of Stephen King (the only author of whose collection I completely exhausted at the Oak Lane Branch of the Philadelphia Public Library), spurred musings on another of his titles. This memory glowed dull in the back of my mind, but crackled dazzlingly as soon as I gave in and read the first lines of the book: Insomnia.
There is the slow-rising summer sun and me on a SEPTA bus to South Street.
There are the streets of Derry, Maine rolling out in front of me with growing clarity.
There is me, early for class and sitting on an actual grassy knoll, rapt by the story. Floetry’s “Sunshine” and ebbing, whispering thoughts of my recently dead grandmother play on repeat between my ears. I am the angsty teen who sees beauty in tragedy and leans into a sort-of-smiling, not unpleasant morose instead of opting for distraction from feeling, which I will learn later.
The story is long and winding. It is of the finality and expansion of time, and the importance of life and the butterfly effect and it all feels terribly important.
There are my classmates, fellow actors, talking outside the studio (maybe an old church?) about the Harry Potter ending. There is the Jesus in our Godspell, with the hair and the tan arms, and the alluring ease of being self-sure, for whom I will shed real tears during his crucifixion.
There are the little kiddies, who have at some point taken a shine to me, and I think that I will always get on better with babies than people my own age.
Here is the summer of Insomnia. The summer where acting seven hours a day will challenge and terrify and inject me with life in a way nothing else had. Where being someone else will let me finally be myself. Where I discover the possibility that people may like me even when I am not trying to be a cool version of me (lucky- I was not good at this anyway).
Me, watching Monty Python in the director’s office and sneaking peeks at a voice lesson I was trying to overhear. Opting for a ride so, walking to my parents’ office downtown and stopping every few blocks to lean on a fence post or bench and snatch up a few more pages.
Me, taking side streets to avoid the hot sun and open leering from men on Broad street. Watching the sun glint off of each of the little mosaic murals tucked between brick homes and bagel shops.
Me, exhausted, laying on my back, book open on my face asleep with the lights on.