Between My Ears and Behind My Eyes
Miranda Diaz, Division 2, 12th grade #ws16e-s2d2

I swivel slowly, surveying my surroundings with every sense. A salty hint of brine twitches through the air, borne by the thicker scent of old parchment and leather. Tall glass windows yield to the onslaught of sunlight and paint the walls with gold, throwing every inch into sharp relief. Heavy wooden shelves tower to the ceilings, proudly bearing the weight of thousands of books. Even a casual glance reveals the eccentricity of the collection: illustrated Sherlock Holmes stories lean against first editions of Tolkien's works, leaving hardly enough space for the weighty history volumes supporting T.S. Eliot's poetry. A nearby line of titles could be mistaken for a dinner party invitee list where, by some temporal miracle, history's greatest heads were to meet. I have spent countless hours in the company of these creations, and could spend countless more, but my feet are restless. Trailing my fingers along the spines of my old ink and wood-pulp friends, I take one more breath of sunlight and hold it in anticipation, then move on.

The next doorway is smaller than the last, almost unassuming. Yet, like everything in this place, it feels like home as I pass underneath. Here, I sense my family, even without looking about. The sight that meets my eyes strengthens my first rush of affectionate warmth. Moments are captured all around me, photographs of life and laughter, childhood portraits in Crayola, movie stubs, report cards, and messily handwritten manifestos in verse and otherwise. Stepping deeper into the darkened space, I find that the annals have not stopped with my immediate family. My breath catches as I trace twin airplane tickets with my fingers, transported to that fateful day when my mother and grandmother stepped off a Hungary-born plane onto New World soil. Cuban cigars lay to my left, and a battered bible in the dialect of Northern Spain lays open to a treasured verse. Everything here is precious, whether monetarily or not.

Amongst these testaments to my past, I find endless hope for my future, a future that gleams in chrome and glass in the very next room: a vast and brilliantly stocked laboratory greets me with a sharp, sterile smell. Powerful microscopes and telescopes bring the infinitely microscopic and macrocosmic to my fingertips. I am wearing a crisp white lab coat that clings to my shoulders with the snugness of certain belonging. Science is solidified here, on operating tables and data tables alike, and the mere reading of cold calculations ignites my fervor for discovery. On another day, perhaps, I would have stopped there, feverishly tasting the temptation of “Eureka!” teasing my tongue, but today I am too eager to move on. There is always more waiting, more to experience.

Faster now, the comforts of the other rooms simmer on a back burner as excitement takes over. The world rushes past, glimpsed through glass, London and New Zealand and Rome and Vienna, all the places I have seen or long to see. The world is vastly, inexplicably endless, every turn a breathless adventure. Simple doors belie the limitless expanse of magic they are guarding. As much as I am drawn to these wonders, something inside me is still yearning for more; I close my eyes and race blindly on. Hallways spiral into shadow and hint at mysteries unresolved. The walls themselves turn from pretty paint to peeling paper to plastered pages of print, all in a constant, provocative movement juxtaposed against the sense that they have always been, and always will be. Ages pass before I find my feet slowing, my heart pounding from my throat. Something new is before me, awash in a simplicity that somehow seems more precious than anything I’ve yet experienced. The doorframe is wooden, and I brush my hand over the crooked nails that hang the hinges there, breath hitching as the wave hits me. I can scarcely describe it, but I am flooded with inspiration, the kind of unbridled passion that I hope for in vain with every strain of music I release or as-of-yet blank page I crease.

Unconsciously, the doorknob twists in my hand and I can barely stand. I am lost in wonder, my pulse an internal thunder: the room stretches before me in a sea of milky white. I can’t make out the source, but a wonderful streaming light illuminates the expanse and deepens my lucid trance. The silence gives no token, and the blankness is unbroken, but for a modest table that reaches to my knee, and only then, with growing joy, do I clearly see. On the table, in a row, are myriad pencils and pens, a paintbrush, a typewriter, and a camera lens. A shelf is slung above it, bowing slightly with the weight of every fine-tuned instrument human hands can create. A ukulele shyly leans on an alto saxophone, while an oboe, clarinet, and violin each occupy a throne. Everything within me burns to commit to story and song the things that make me who I am, the things both right and wrong, the things I’ve been in secret and the things I celebrate, the things that I pray to one day accomplish and my failings (admittedly great). Worlds I wish existed and smiles that’ve consisted of single words or notes or touches on the backs of hands; hopes and dreams (nightmares and good) and regrets and future plans, fantasy and mystery and history and rhyme, a life sung in the key of me, a short solo in time. I know what my purpose is, though the thread has yet to unwind, and even before the door closes behind me, I know what I will find. A mirror hangs on the back of that portal, and though contained in a form merely mortal, I feel possibility in a distinct sensation: creation my vocation… My future stretches before me and my past lies behind. Welcome to my favorite place. Welcome to my mind.
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