I had one recurring nightmare as a child: I am standing in the dry bed of a creek looking upstream, the sun shining and the stones warm on the bottoms of my feet. Suddenly, a roaring wave rushes toward me around a bend and I have no choice but to be swept along with it. The water drags earth from the river banks until it is so thick with sediment it has turned the color of Swiss Miss.
We decided we’d stop for the night in Denver while eating at a Taco Johns in North Platte, Nebraska, and scanned the Expedia app on my phone. There was a 4-star hotel in the suburbs northwest of the city on sale for 86 bucks, so I reserved a room because it was the same price as the Best Western.
One February morning, in between blizzards, I was leaning against a pillar on a subway platform, off the express train and waiting for the local, reading as usual, when a large drop of water landed on the book in my hands. The dirty bubble-swell of water—probably melted snow that had seeped from the pavement above into the underground in-between space where I stood—lingered in place yellowly for a moment before blooming into the bottom of page 88. If I let it keep seeping into the book, the paper would dry all wrinkly. If I wiped it off—with my hand? my jacket?—I’d only be spreading the wetness around. Irritation, the kind particular to very minor subway commute dramas, spread through me. The train arrived.
A Sip of Elsewhere: On Reading Into and Out of Place