It’s stories’ fault.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve endowed solitary trips–via bus, train, airplane, what have you–with a particular sense of anticipation, of wonder, that has never really come to fruition on any of the actual trips. It used to be a major let-down. It still would be, if I hadn’t come to regard the fact with a dull indifference.
But, still, deep down, I long for wonder.
And I tell you–it’s stories’ fault.
Because in stories, characters’ physical journeys almost invariably go hand-in-hand with some significant reality unfolding in their lives. Maybe they’re traveling to a parent’s funeral, or to an ex’s wedding. Or maybe they’re going to school for the first time, or visiting a family member who’s moved far away. Or maybe they’ve decided that something’s got to give, so they’ve purchased a plane ticket to a random destination, thrown caution to the wind, and said to the universe, “Here I am. Come and get me.”
And so often the trip itself constitutes a dynamic event, offers up some memorable image, becomes a prelude (or maybe even the main action) of some profound Thing that is going to happen to this character. Whatever his or her life has been, this trip marks the point where it begins to unravel, to fall apart, to break into pieces so that it can be remade into something new. Or, at the very least, the trip gestures towards something inside them, something long dormant that might be on the verge of waking up. So maybe they fall asleep on the train, only to be waken from their nap by a complete stranger who’s going to change their life forever. In this way there’s a magic in traveling–a spontaneity, a danger, a hope of revelation. Anything can happen. And, in stories–anything does happen.
I’m sure things happen to people all the time on real-life trips, of course. I guess it’s because I’m always on the look-out for the literary that the literary never quite happens to me. Manic Pixie Dream Girl (or Boy) never actually plops down next to me on the bus and changes my life, you know?
I guess that’s what I get for relying on other people’s stories (especially of the cinematic variety) to give structure to my own narrative. In fact, real stories–real, live, honest-to-God, literary things–are probably happening to me every moment; I’m just too busy wishing my life were more like a movie to realize it.
So if I really long for wonder, I probably ought to create it myself.
And hey–who’s to say I’m not the Manic Pixie Dream Boy on the bus? Worth giving it a shot, right?
…Oh, who am I kidding. I couldn’t be Natalie Portman if my life depended on it.
Maybe I’ll just take a nap instead…