15 February 2019

The way it will be

Doing things my heart isn’t truly set on directly affects my enjoyment and experience with said thing. Makes sense, right? For me it comes in many forms, but more strongly in consuming media: shows, movies, books. Even since childhood I've felt an overwhelming importance on what my heart tells me in the moment, to the point where it's become fervent superstition. The time I finally sit down to watch or read something is the time it is meant for, and I hold onto that feeling. That if I’m dragging my feet to pick up a book sitting on my shelf, it’s not the time for it yet. And if I have something to take with me from an experience, I want to be ready to listen for it.

In December 2013, we had just packed up over 10 years of our life and stuffed it into a tiny apartment. My bedroom was wall to wall with boxes that I wouldn’t unpack for another month or two — some were still sealed by the time we moved to the next place. There was so much of my life that I had hastily packed away and couldn't bring myself to look at again. I had to keep moving forward or I would surely fall apart. One of those falling-apart nights I went down to the trash room to recycle some moving boxes. I don’t remember if it was still winter or the start of spring. But I opened the heavy metal doors to see a discarded bookshelf — and a single worn book at the very top. I think anyone who enjoys reading would feel something seeing a discarded book, but this one I knew very well. Sitting there under the single halogen light was The Alchemist.

“Don’t think about what you’ve left behind,” the alchemist said to the boy as they began to ride across the sands of the desert.

Without hesitation, I picked it up and took it home. Why did the owner put it in the trash room instead of donating it? Why go through the effort to set it atop a bookshelf? What brought them to throwing it away? Pools of thoughts floated through my head as I rode the elevator back up, gently carrying the book in my arms. It seemed strange to me that this was the only book there that night — a lonely book on an even lonelier bookshelf. 

Thinking back then and thinking about it now — it was definitely an omen. Why was a copy of The Alchemist, specifically, in our new apartment complex? Maybe I was meant to have it. Maybe the owner put it there fully believing that I would find it and give it a new home. 

In the end, however, I never read it. The omen was there, and I wasn't prepared for its arrival. At the time it felt like such a precious and meaningful occurrence that the time I should give to it should be just as meaningful. And for a long time it hasn’t felt like I could give it that time. I'd even venture to say that I didn't feel like I deserved to read it.

“Everything is written in the Soul of the World, and there it will stay forever.”

Five years later, it's Christmas again. As I unpacked my books in a new apartment, I came across that same copy of The Alchemist. I was spending the holidays home alone, and decided to put together a new, bigger bookshelf for my books still in boxes. There it was again, so quiet and patient. Somehow now it felt like the right time. But I still hesitated. I let it sit on my desk for a few more days, overthinking like I always do. I fanned through the soft pages. This copy is worn and well-loved, with occasional highlighter and pen marks. The pages are aged with a vignette and smelled like an old familiar smell from a fading memory. 
I'd like to think that everyone has a favorite time of day they prefer to read. Mine is at night, huddled up in bed while the rest of the world sleeps and the moon makes its way through the stars. One night I finally decided to start. Just a chapter or so, I thought. So, huddled up in bed, I began. And I kept reading, reading, reading. Time seemed to have stopped, until I realized I was halfway through already. Granted, it’s not too long of a book — but the impact left me breathless and wanting to weep. With every page I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose. It felt as if I’ve known this story all my life. Like those special moments where you're brought a piece to add to your heart that makes you think Oh, here you have been all my life. Yet in this case it's always been here. And deep down I knew I would love it because you loved it. And maybe coming to terms with that was too sad until now.

You will never be able to escape from your heart. So it’s better to listen to what it has to say.

It's fitting, sad, wonderful, hopeful, and now was very much the time it was meant for. Back then I was afraid to be Fatima, left behind and always watching the horizon. Now I'd like to think I'm wiser and understand this instead as a patient and trusting love, though maybe it's too late for that. And if the omens have stopped, then at the very least I want to thank you for bringing this book, among many other pieces of my heart, to me. I'll treasure it forever. I love you.

 — Your girl of the desert.

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