Sonder (n): the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own — populated with their own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness — an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.
People find comfort in the weirdest things. It could be smells, sights, people, and most frequent, home. Webster’s Dictionary defines home as the place where one lives permanently especially as a member of a family or household. I’d always found it interesting, speaking volumes of people whenever they described their homes to me. Most often it seems they pick the obvious, not quite knowing what my question was entailing, so they side with Webster. But home to me has never been a place per se, but more so a feeling. After all, what makes a home is comfort and belonging, right?
October 15, 2006
“It’s beautiful isn’t it?” Even against a gloomy backdrop, the Brooklyn Bridge was still a sight for sore eyes. Nothing about the day, though, had been gloomy. I stood beside my father as his eyes drank the bridge in like it was the girlfriend he were returning to after a long, strenuous trip. It was a different look than I’d ever seen on him and it’d be the last real look I’d ever see on him. He’d break eye contact to look at my little sister, riding one of those quarter rides you usually find at malls or outside supermarkets.
“It is,” he’d say when his gaze turns back to the monument. “It’s home,” when he says it, it resonates, because he doesn’t need be on the bridge to feel what it brings to him. He just needs to look at it. From the back patio of Pier 17 at the South Street Seaport, I look at it too, but it doesn’t bring that feeling to me. When his arm wraps around my shoulders to press me tight into his chest, I wonder if he knew that this would be our last time together. It could’ve been why he squeezed me like Elmira does her animals, or kissed my forehead so slow. Just seeing it, his home, brought all the comfort he needed but left not a speck for me.
“I love you, sweetheart.”
April 27, 2011
The sky was dark as the city sky gets; never black but that fading burgundy like the New York nightlife was setting the sky on fire. There were sparkling holes in it too, some more faint than others. I always thought it was funny when people said they couldn’t see stars in the city. They were there if you looked hard enough. From the docks next to the tucked ship ‘The Peking’, he held my hand. It was lukewarm, but still enough to set my skin ablaze. There was a never-ending wind battling my face, and whipping my hair into my mouth. I’d sputter, but the lukewarm touch would be quick to sweep the strands away, chuckling as charge for the deed. He didn’t need to though, and when I thanked him he always told me, “Don’t. You don’t need to.” His words are always careful as if he’s finding a way to not sound creepy or weird, “It gives me an excuse to touch you.” But it doesn’t sound creepy or weird at all.
In the movies the girls always have this witty line in response. They’ll lean against the railing with the perfect picture of a lit up Brooklyn Bridge sitting cozy behind them, and it’d be like something out of a Nicholas Sparks novel. Except in my book, the tip of my sandal caught the plank of the boardwalk making me trip slightly. I laugh through my embarrassment as he helps me up straight and leads me to the railing. He settles behind me, his arms wrapping around me to shield from the chill of the wind. Where other’s arm encircling me felt too tight or uncomfortable, here was just right. Where I’d once been trying to make my puzzle piece fit against an unfamiliar pattern and grew frustrated when the wrong piece wouldn’t wedge, his ridges matched mine in all angles and edges.
As the dots of light along the bridge sparkled beside us, he kissed me from over my shoulder, and I knew it. When we broke away, his smile mirrored my own because we both knew it. This was where I belonged.
“I’m in love with you, you know.”
May 17, 2014
“All the places in the city to come for today, and you choose here?” The third and last time my shoes clicked atop the familiar cobblestone of the South Street Seaport it didn’t welcome me the same way. It was like last call at your favorite bar, they turn the lights on and you see it for what it is. The Brooklyn Bridge still stands proud beyond the Pier to my left,‘The Peking’ to my right, any magic that area once held had fallen away. The disconnect is so heavy that it weighs out all the sound around me for a moment. Maybe it was the expectation? Or the fact that it was the first time I planned on coming here and making a memory of my own rather than being taken here? Whatever it was wiped my face clean.
I’d come for the food and the atmosphere, but the Mall inside the seaport had closed down. No more lingering in the poster shops, or sitting on the restaurant patio with friends. The boarded up windows read ‘Coming Soon’ where Cabana was let on that I wasn’t going to be going there either. Something in me still wanted to stay, to sit around by the railing where I’d fallen in love or the one where I’d shared my last real moment with my father. Just to see if the feeling would come back. For old time’s sake, the wind swept my face in a salty fervor that whipped my hair but there were no fingers to brush it back. My feet turned on the cobblestone for me to leave before home didn’t feel like home anymore.