Last Monday night, I found myself swiveling in my chair, laughing with a high school friend who now lives in South Korea. Our unplanned pre-dinner Zoom call had gone on for nearly an hour, in which we joked and pondered about boys, friends, memories.
I realise we hadn't laughed together since I saw her over a year ago. We describe how silly that with all this distance, we were only an hour apart. "I hate timezones," I laugh. "It's crazy," she replies. I tell her I don't miss high school. She tells me she doesn't, either. 

But I miss its people, I say. Friday nights spent at a friend's house. Every group project turning into a pizza party. Maybe we just miss the ease.
Maybe I miss the alarm, followed by the clanging sound of lockers shutting in tandem. Maybe I miss the drive back — the family car that carried me home every sunset.
I miss long drives. When I was little, I hated them — I would gag at the back seat, dramatically complaining that I feel carsick. Now, I'd give almost anything to get away. To anywhere, to nowhere at all.


Taken on one old road trip.

Airports give the same feeling. Yes, I miss those too. There's a thrill to it. Boarding passes, the rolling of luggage, the gate announcer whose voice echoes everywhere.
My brother steps on a plane this weekend. He works in Jakarta and will travel back home. I have told him "be careful" too many times. He tells me to relax. So I worry, pray, and worry some more.
I missed him especially during the second week of July — the week he was supposed to be on the morning flight to Melbourne. My brother asks me who I'm dating. I've given him the same answer for the past two years. When my brother laughs, the whole room shakes. When he calls me out of nowhere, I, his little sister, in this big scary city, 
feel safe.

Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam, June 2019.
The Redmond Barry Reading Room of the Victoria State Library. That place made me feel safe, too. I haven't seen it in many months. When the library closed back in March, a part of my soul I never knew could ache, did. 
My friend told me once, that he never visits public libraries. He thinks they're too unsafe. And I'm willing to bet he never spent a cold winter's evening in the Redmond Barry Reading Room — nested in its hushed ambience, its warm lighting, its hardwood floors. It's where I spent my last winter, where I'd just turned twenty then. I would've told him about the old security guard; the one that always smiles at whoever walks in. I would've told him, it's about where you sit! Find a corner table, and you'll spend hours blissfully out of view.

The Redmond Barry Reading Room, 2018.
I miss libraries. The cafés you always find at the entrance too. I can't remember my last cup of latte I didn't make myself. I miss reading in cafés, journaling in cafés, minding my own business in cafés. I miss heart-to-heart conversations in cafés. People watching, eavesdropping, looking out the window in cafés. I miss live tweeting absurd, ordinary things I see happen in cafés. I miss observing baristas, in awe of their speed, wondering about the meaning of their tattoos, in cafés.

Minding my own business.
There is plenty more to this list, but as this is month five and day 16,000 of quarantine, I reckon I could write an ode to just about anything. But I hope you, dear friend, are safe.
Last week, I began to also miss my grandparents. My grandmother's pudding, my grandfather's wind chimes. My grandmother's smile, my grandfather's eyes. But I couldn't say much about them, really. So on that note, for now I'll leave you with this poem by Sarah Kay:

My grandmother's awakened bed
A language I don't understand
runs circles round her head

Her words get jumbled on her lips and brought her out to play
I press my head against her chest, her heartbeat seems to say:

Still here, still here.

You can miss me when I'm gone,
but I'll keep on holding on 
as long as I'm still here.

...

I've seen the fire, I've seen the storm
I took a stranger by the hand 
and tried to keep them warm
The buildings rolled, the rivers rose
at the hands of gods and men
They can break this city down to dust, 
and we'll build it back again

Still here, still here

They can give us all they got
But they won't destroy us not
as long as I'm still here.

...

I've walked these shoes until they're thin
I've wandered halfway round the world and wandered back again
The road is long, the night is cold
when I'm out there on my own
Your face lit by the hallway lamp is how I know I'm home

...

The writer lies awake again
He knows that he's crossed to bear the paper and the pen
His time on this earth is short,
the end could be tonight
He doesn't fear the end of times.
He fears he cannot write.

Still here, still here.
I'm not afraid to move along.
Here's a poem and a song,
to know that I'm still
here.

---

Take care where you are.

Signed,
Jo

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