There was a colorful wall of wisdom that greeted her each time she swung the front door open. It was the solace she so badly needed after a long day, nestled inside of that tiny third story apartment she called home.
She often wondered if the way a pet owner felt upon returning from a grueling day – met with the rapidly wagging tail of a puppy – equated to the giddiness she experienced when welcomed back to her own abode by those bookshelves she loved more than life itself; filled with more magical stories than one could count.
It seemed impossible to explain the way black ink on white paper could provide such a feeling of being at home in her own skin. Only when she was deeply entrenched in a good book did she ever feel that she belonged; that she was free of judgment and criticism; the only time she didn’t feel so alone in her anxious anticipation for the future.
To become so deeply engaged in someone else’s story; to feel their feelings and walk the same steps: that, to her, was the ultimate cathartic experience. It was the only way she could ever seem to make sense of who she was; this small and somewhat lost girl living in such an incredibly big and busy world. But, when she curled up in her green tweed armchair with a pile of books – when she really let herself become lost in the tall tales of make believe people living make believe lives – that was, ironically, the one and only time when the real world seemed to make perfect sense. Where she no longer felt questioned: only accepted.
Because, through literature, she always discovered a new reason to smile and nod and sleep through the night knowing that there were, in fact, others out there – people across the globe – who felt and struggled and dreamt of gaining the ability to verbalize and make sense of the same pains and desires she did. That’s the thing about a good writer: they must find a way of making the world feel as one. A way of making an old woman in India and a young man in Argentina experience the very same emotions, for very different reasons.
She believed that a good novel challenged without reducing; loved without leaving; taught without judging. She knew that a book never failed to stay put exactly where you left off with it; the dog-eared page last pinned down by its reader will remain in place until he or she returns again.
Oh, how magnificently refreshing this sense of trust was for her! A small token of continuity amongst the maddening uncertainty of everything else in the world. To know her books were dutifully waiting for her at home was sometimes the only thing that got her through the day. It was only here – blindly and silently written between the lines of the classics – that she first found love. Where she came to learn that even imaginary people, places and things can strike a chord within you and reignite your spirit, as if they were all tangible experiences that happened directly to you! And even after the real world has snubbed you down to ash, the places and protagonists and possibilities inside the covers of our favorite books remain faithful friends to return to in trying times. They will always be there, folded away inside their gold-spun stories. Always just the same as the way you left them.
Between those pages lived a multitude of memories made up of loneliness and happiness; changes and sameness. Tales of births and deaths and first kisses and last kisses. And in the midst of it all, she always experienced that familiar old wave of safety sweeping through her veins as she read on; it always seemed as though her favorite books knew just what she needed to read, exactly when she needed to read it.
That wall of wonderful tales stacked high along the bookcases have and always will be her shelter from the storm; her island of necessary escape; her sanctuary of solitude that could never seem to be found out in the real world.
For her, this was Neverland. This little library of hers – the way she felt as she sunk into that old green tweed chair and became lost in another adventure from the past – was altogether the most beautiful place she could ever imagine. She was safe here. Her mind worked at just the right pace here. Her thoughts could shoot sparks off like the Fourth of July here. And if you were ever to ask her what the most comforting thing in the world is, she’d always tell you it’s the sound of pages flipping in the wind and the smell of a book one hundred years old.
That was her heaven. That was Neverland. That was her Neverland, anyway. And she always looked a bit more beautiful when you caught her deep in thought – so very far away from reality – with her nose stuck in a book.
Stuck in Neverland and wishing never to leave.