I can’t see the sunrise or sunset from my hotel room, but I can see their reflections off the buildings next to me. Both of the last two mornings, stranded in an internal body clock located approximately over the Pacific, I’ve been up to see the light change: the streak of bright colors on the windows, the buildings become beacons. It takes around five minutes for the show to vanish; then it’s like it never existed. This could be a metaphor, if I wanted it to be. I am witnessing the change of the world only through how it affects everything else. I see everything but the shift itself.
My parents, my brother, and my dog have visited me every day, as they dropped off food for me. They come and stand on the sidewalk before and I press myself against the window and look down at them. My dog is concerned with everything but the hotel above and snakes around the pillars, glad to be outside. I watch my father and my mother squint upwards, wave madly. I blink off and on the lights in my room to signal my presence. When they came at night they could make out the shape of me, spreadeagled on the glass, my arms sweeping back and forth. I watched their video; I sent them a video in turn, of the small dots of them far below.
When I tell my friends about the visits they laugh. That’s so sad, they say, but also, nice, I guess? Also nice, I think mostly. My family is here for me. I haven’t been able to say that for a while. So I don’t feel lonely; as it is I’m an introvert, but especially now I don’t feel lonely, especially as I bite into the mango my mother cut for me, and neatly boxed, and dropped off at the hotel door. The juice spills over my lips. I remember in my college dorm scraping the last bits of fibrous flesh from the Ecuadorian mangoes they gave in the dining halls. But this is different, this is soft and sweet and so rich it feels like it shouldn’t be allowed. Something trembles inside me. I eat the box piece by piece and without stopping until it’s empty. Then I wipe the juice from the inside with my finger.
And my friends are here for me, too. I call someone and we talk for hours. Later he texts me: hope is in other people.
I used to not believe that. I used to think hope was something you carried, was a rock in your belly, you could hit it and it would not move. But I am changing my mind these days. I am thinking more and more about community. What it means to be surrounded, even if not physically (or physically, too: on my wall the posters my mother got me, the stuffed toys my friends named; the shirt I borrowed from my roommate; the book recommended by my classmate). How we lift each other up. What a privilege it is to be lifted up.
I watched the movie of the musical In the Heights yesterday. I have loved the soundtrack for a long time and the movie, though different, held some of that same magic—homecoming, homerooting. Belonging somewhere not because of where you’re from but who you’re from. I am in the heights now. I am looking down on it all.