I loved to sleep with the window open. Rainy nights were the best of all: I would open the window and put my head on the pillow and close my eyes and feel the wind on my face and listen to the trees sway and creak.
She was power incarnate, standing in the crackling air. She was the storm, she was the lightning, she was the adult world with all its power and all its secrets and all its foolish casual cruelty. She winked at me.
I am proud to have been involved in silent, petty cooperation.
work overnights, and whether it is a cause or an effect, I hate people.
My route home involves a three-lane one-way street crossing another
three-lane one-way street which comes from the right.
On the day in question, I was in the center lane, crossing the
intersection on a green light. Suddenly a white sports car from the
other street takes a right turn without stopping for the red light, cuts
across the far right lane of my road and into my lane. I nearly
rear-ended him, slammed on the brakes, and liberally applied the horn.
He then zipped back into the far right lane, cutting off a small bus for
a local preschool next to me, who also has to slam on the brakes.
Sports car zigged back into my lane, then zagged back into the far right
At this point, I was pissed. I sped up to keep pace beside him so
that he couldn’t jump back into my lane, and the school bus sped up to
ride his bumper. An SUV in front of me and another car in front of the
sports car slowed down to keep pace with the rest of us.
With silent, petty cooperation, we kept him locked into one lane for almost a mile until he made a right turn!
I think I realised something, a reason for why I love about Neil Gaiman’s work so much that I never realised before. Many of his main characters are very…wallflower. At least,
they have been
in most of the stories I have read. They aren’t celebrated. They aren’t suave or extra clever or grand in any way. They just are. Richard is a man with an okay job and an iffy girlfriend. Shadow is a down on his luck ex-con. The Narrator in Ocean is a man questioning life in his late 40′s, in a not too different way from how one questions in their 20′s. Barbie too, is just a girl. They all lead wallflower existences, unnoticed by those not looking, easily passed over by the random on the street.
And then these wallflower heroes of his go on to see fantastic things, have reality warping adventures. Adventures on scales so abstract and so vast, and so, so beautiful. And then they come back. Then they come back to a normal life, or at least, a life normal enough. No one knows of what they’ve done. They aren’t congratulated or patted on the back. They come back and live more of their wallflower lives.
And I think the reason I really love this trope of his is because, as time goes by, I too feel more and more wallflower. As children, we dream big. I was going to be the next Tesla, re-invent electricity based technology for the world. Right now, I’d be happy to get a job out of uni that pays okay. Life lowers our expectations and makes wallflowers out of most of us, meant to go just watch the world swing madly on. We contribute to it, but in small ways, ways that seem insignificant. And when we pick up a book, we hide ourselves in awe behind heroes like Vin and Daenerys who can decimate armies and change the course of history in minutes. Which is fine - it’s a lovely escape. But sometimes, we need something a bit less from our heroes. Sometimes, we just need someone to see ourselves in, to stand by, to walk with, to fight with, and in the end, come back with to our everyday lives, with a world none the wiser, and feeling no more changed. Sometimes, we need Shadow, and we need Barbie, and we need Richard. And we need Gaiman.