We began our week with Jamila Osman’s “A Map of Lost Things,” one of the most beautiful essays I have ever read:
On that strip of land between the United States and Canada, I realize I have always belonged everywhere at once: on the road; in liminal spaces; in the uncontested land between Somalia and Ethiopia where my father spent the ragged days of his youth. I have always belonged at the beginning of the world, and where it seems to end, where the sky meets the sea, where the sea meets the land, on a plane when the two become indistinguishable from one another and you can no longer tell if you are going home or leaving it.
Where are you from? people still ask me, but the answer is not simple. I am from a place beyond the scope of any map or road atlas. I am from a house of borrowed things, a land of irreconcilable and devastating losses, a terrain marked by grief. I am from nomads who moved in search of water, carving a home wherever they ended up like water carves its shape into rock. I am from a wild hope, a blinding courage, a blur and madness uncharted by any cartographer. I am from a land unmapped and entirely my own.
“I’m afraid that when people see me in it, all they will see is a white girl stealing something Japanese. Of course, there is no one whose permission I can ask. There is no one who can tell me that I am Japanese enough. ”
Claudia Santino on growing up in Brooklyn:
Situated on a wide corner, the drugstore had a crescent entrance. In good weather, we flanked its curbed stoop running along the East 4th Street side of the three-story building, spending the night sitting, conspiring, flirting, and working out our angst and confusion. We traded the horror stories of our lives at home, of what we’d do when we were able to break away. When someday we’d get jobs in Manhattan and have the freedom to do whatever we wanted.
Joshua Jelly-Schapiro traveled to Cuba to witness its farewell to Fidel Castro:
Raúl’s voice was hoarse and tired; he looked and sounded, having promised to leave Cuba’s presidency in 2018, every one of his eighty-five years . . . “The leader of the Revolution rejected any manifestation of a cult of personality,” Raúl croaked of his brother, “insisting that, after his death, his name and likeness never be used to designate institutions, parks, avenues, streets, or other public spaces.” This gesture, in a country where Fidel had no problem subjecting his people to his own voice and image, for hours each day on their one TV station, for decades, may draw laughs: The egomaniac doth protest too much. The takeaway Raúl then offered, though, about a man long known for insisting that his country would be “the slave of no one,” felt harder to dismiss. Raúl closed his speech not by quoting Fidel but an older hero. “Together,” he intoned to cheers, “We all affirm [what was] expressed by the Bronze Titan: ‘Whoever attempts to conquer Cuba, will gather the dust of her blood-soaked soil, if he does not perish in the fight!’”
We continue to republish wonderful short stories from the archives of NOON. Yesterday: “Likable,” by Deb Olin Unferth: “She could see she was becoming a thoroughly unlikable person. Each time she opened her mouth she said something ugly, and whoever was nearby liked her a little less.”
Felice Neals remembers her 2007 trip to Aleppo, the people she met there and all that she saw: “It is hard to believe that this and more has been destroyed.”
“ All they knew was that at 8,000 feet with no cell phone service and a snowstorm looming, politeness was all they had to protect themselves.”
Finally, this essay by Laura Turner, about contemplating her greatest fear while on retreat at a monastery in Big Sur, is about death, but also full of life: There is one man who arrives at the chapel a moment before I do and always guides me to the correct book of prayers for that particular service, which saves me a considerable amount of embarrassment. I wonder if we could talk together about our fears, or if these small kindnesses would be ruined by conversation. Do the other guests here fear death, too? If not, why are they here?
Eventually, the sun bleaches the ocean to a lighter shade of blue, so that at its edge it looks almost white. I am in Room 2 at the hermitage; I wonder what the woman in Room 3 is doing right now, or the man in Room 7. Are they seeing what I’m seeing? Are we, in our lonelinesses, more alike than we are different? That is the only consolation.