Emily liked to imagine that she was from a different time.
She’d sit on her bed and smooth out the covers, fold the sheets with crisp lines and perfect, symmetrical shapes. She’d place the chipped tea cup on the bookshelf and push back the linen curtains. But she would never open her eyes. No, you see, because if she did, she would have to see the traffic that buzzed like summer bees below her and the water stain dripping down the side of her window. She’d have to admit that outside, reality was not what she wished, and, frankly, she wasn’t ready to stop pretending.
So, instead, she closed her eyes and pressed her forehead against the cool glass. She imagined that beyond the four walls she called home, there were open moors and grass that swept against ankle and calf and then inner knee. She imagined that trees draped over the sides of a porch and that her Labrador was free to run amongst the unfenced wild yonder. She imagined gentle whickering coming from the nearby stable where she kept her gray mare loosely fenced, with apples in a bucket and leather reins looped over a tack in the wall. She imagined freedom and rain-soaked air and nothing for miles but her wandering imagination.
Emily liked to sit on the subway and cry.
She wasn’t sure where the tears came from; all she knew is that they were there and persistent and there was nothing she could do but invite them to stay. So she’d sit and cry and not one person would stop to place a comforting hand on her shoulder. She’d often think about how stories in the newspapers like to unfold the beauty of humanity and the kindness of strangers, but on those days where grit pressed against her palms, she never once witnessed it. All she felt was annoyance, as if the existence of her sadness was an irritant. As if she was a reminder that pain existed outside of themselves and they didn’t care to know.
So, instead, she’d open up her favorite novel and bring her knees to her chest. She’d place her chin on her arm and get lost in another time where humans interacted with one another, where compassion expanded past one’s own skin and where comforting a stranger was second nature. She’d fold herself into the yellowed, weathered pages and let herself get lost in the commas. And somewhere between the turning of the pages, her heart would calm and her pulse would slow, the tears would dry and stain her cheeks. She would no longer be on the subway, but in Narnia or in Darcy’s arms or riding across the open sea; she would no longer be alone and when the strangers around her rose to leave, she wouldn’t feel their absence.
Emily liked to wander around vintage stores.
She preferred them over the malls and outlet stores and chains upon chains of different names, but the same prepackaged items and smiles inside. She hated walking in those stores, the endless aisles and the music that always played too loud. It made her feel small and insignificant and like she wore a number upon her forehead instead of a name upon her heart. Sometimes, she would buy something, but she always felt a little emptier when she left – a little dirty and a little sad, with the soulless clothes held in her unclenched fist.
So, instead, she liked to wander into museums of pre-bought and pre-owned and pre-loved items, pick up the fading fabric and deteriorating lace and press her face into them. Some smelled of musk and old perfume, some smelled of dust and storage, but each smelled like time to her. She liked the feeling of wandering from object to object, giving a story to each and every one. She’d hold the brushes and mirrors and satin in her hand and imagine the woman who owned it before her. Sometimes, she liked to imagine it came down a line of women, and that she was simply the next in succession of ownership. One day, she too would leave and all of her painstakingly collected items would find their way into a worn down shop on 6th and Main.
She hoped someone lonely would pick it up and feel a little warmer when they left. She hoped someone would feel hope when they saw what she wrote on each and every one:
You’re not alone; together, we all are one.