On this trip I have been inhaling The Time Traveler’s Wife, a beautiful and poignant meditation on fate and free will disguised as romance disguised as science fiction, but which is anything but genre. It has throw me into a familiar funk, a longing for connection. True love and soulmates are concepts so common and easy in the night realm of stories and fairy tales but so rare and difficult in the waking realm we are forced each day to inhabit. I wander the streets of Barcelona, watching all the pretty people hand in hand in their pretty lives, laughing and smiling, and I wonder what amount of it is pure and what is illusion. I make myself another useless set of promises: to find my life’s direction, to get into shape, to broaden my education, to explore the Outdoors, to find an Other who is Significant. But what does any of it mean, in this, a world that is full not of fairy tales but of far more mundane narratives?
I check my email and discover that while I’ve been away, my department at Harvard has been dissolved, something new born from the ashes. A fiery phoenix? Perhaps, with enough imagination and prose, we can force interesting mundanities into the vacant molds of marvelous fairy tales. Perhaps, if we squint and open our minds wide, we can experience our lives as great and beautiful adventures. But can it ever really be the same as the stories we read? Can the longing ever truly be fulfilled?