Mollycoddling was the mother’s duty; the father’s lay elsewhere. As a consequence, his four older children feared and respected him, as they had been taught to do, and the love they professed to feel, had they been asked and had they answered truthfully or even had access to the truth, was of a duty-bound, obligatory kind too, a love issuing from commandment and tradition and the notion of family, not one from the tides of the heart or the unbridled, inexplicable pull of feelings. If painted, that love would take the form of a polite and manicured wash of pleasant colours, not the hurl-and-splatter of impastoed reds.
―Neel Mukherjee, The Lives of Others
A curtain of stars, miles of them, are scattered, glowing, across the sky and their multitude humbles me, which I have a hard time tolerating. She shrugs and nods after I say something about forms of anxiety. It’s as if her mind is having a hard time communicating with her mouth, as if she is searching for a rational analysis of who I am, which is, of course, an impossibility: there… is… no… key.
―Bret Easton Ellis, American Psycho
In far-off lands stand the great stones
on which my thoughts rest.
It was a foreigner who wrote the strange words
on the hard board that is called my soul.
Days and nights I lie and think
about things that never happened:
my thirsty soul was once given a drink.
―Edith Södergran, Poems 1916
Distance changes utterly when you take the world on foot. A mile becomes a long way, two miles literally considerable, ten miles whopping, fifty miles at the very limits of conception. The world, you realize, is enormous in a way that only you and a small community of fellow hikers know. Planetary scale is your little secret.
―Bill Bryson, A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail
I turn on my computer to search Craigslist for apartment listings. The wireless window pops up, and I realize with some regret that all I know about my neighbours is their wireless network names: Krypton, Space balls, Couscous, and Scarlet. From this I can tell little else than that they’re fans of Superman, Mel Brooks, Middle Eastern cuisine, and the colour red. I look out my window, wondering whose house is whose and what private food and entertainment consumption occurs in each and how I will never get to know.
Suddenly it seemed to me that I looked back from a great distance on that smile and saw it all again – the smile and the day, the whole sunny, sad, funny, wonderful day and all the days that we had spent here together. What was I going to do when such days came no more? There could not be many; for we were a family growing old. And how would I learn to live without these people? I who needed them so little that I could stay away all year – what should I do without them?
―Jetta Carleton, The Moonflower Vine
Family is family, and is not determined by marriage certificates, divorce papers, and adoption documents. Families are made in the heart. The only time family becomes null is when those ties in the heart are cut. If you cut those ties, those people are not your family. If you make those ties, those people are your family. And if you hate those ties, those people will still be your family because whatever you hate will always be with you.
You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.