Wanting or Not Wanting a Magic Door

I currently live in a neighborhood where all the houses look different. I don’t mean in architectural style, although even my uneducated eye can tell there is a certain amount of variety there. They look different in the same way that people look different – there are features that function as common denominators, but other than that, no two of them have precisely the same floor plan, or nose.

This matters to me and satisfies me, because from age four to about age thirteen, I lived in a neighborhood of duplexes, where there were two floor plans available and some houses had a basement, but most did not. There weren’t many colors of paint – my friends lived in THIS yellow house or THAT one, depending. I remember thinking dispiritedly as a nine year old that there was only so much you could do with wallpaper and paint inside to change the shape of implacably square rooms, boxes within boxes. There were no nooks, no crannies, no surprises no follies. I was inexplicably frustrated by sameness in any form I encountered it (there are THIRTY ONE FLAVORS of ice cream available at Baskin Robbins, and as many or more in the grocery aisle of the supermarket, and STILL grown-ups buy vanilla, all the goddamn time vanilla, and I even LIKE vanilla, but not ALL THE TIME), especially when there were options, and people chose not to exercise them.

I could make a list of other cases where sameness annoys (and the instances where it charms because whatever I think on any given topic there’s always exceptions where I think precisely the opposite), but thinking about the houses settled something in my head regarding Jo Walton’s comments on looking for a magic door.

It is unavoidable after this next bit that anyone reading this will find me creepy, but oh well. Maybe you’re here because you like creepy, maybe you’re creepy too.

Not only do I like wandering around looking at houses that are different from each other, but I enjoy looking in the lit windows after dark. A twilight walk in a neighborhood full of odd houses is a distinct pleasure, because you see lit rooms full of unfamiliar furnishings, bookshelves that aren’t yours, televisions flickering with things you’re not watching, people eating meals you can’t taste, all these lives you can’t inhabit and minds you can’t think through BUT with the shape and color and scent and sound of these brief glimpses into other people’s worlds, you can imagine, a little, what it’s like to be someone else. The someone you’re imagining may not be so different from yourself, they may obey (seemingly) the same laws of physics and interact with objects and opportunities in ways that are not wholly strange to you, but all those different kinds of ice-cream are just variations too.

You could say I want a magic window, then, instead of a magic door, but the truth is I don’t just want to imagine, I want to know. But I’ll take the fiction and facsimile in the meantime, until we can actually mindsurf (a huge invasion of privacy, clearly, and one I can say for certain I’d at least have to consider)(sorry in advance)(blame Scarlett Thomas).

And that’s another reason for so many books: stories and information and the WHOLE internet. I read people’s blogs the way I look through their lit windows at night, absorbing life details and cataloging shifting patterns in human experience. TELL ME MORE ABOUT YOURSELVES, HUMAN PEOPLE, I WISH TO KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE ALL OF YOU. So the magic door, for me, was never to escape permanently into another world, at least not from a life I loathe, because I love my life, with all its cracks and difficulties and benefits and blessings, but to be able to experience the other, fully and really. I might want to go to Hogwarts, but I don’t want to stay at Hogwarts, because then I’d never get to stand on the bridge of the Enterprise (fanfic crossover folks, stop waving your hands, or don’t, maybe, maybe you’re my best friends). That’s why I’m not joking about the TARDIS clause. I never joke about the TARDIS clause.

Vive la diffĂ©rence! Here we queue politely, read and reread voraciously, and wonder what it’s like to be inside your skin.

PS: greetings from the city where it rains ALL THE TIME