In light of the Douglas Anderson Writer’s Festival approaching within the next month, I decided to take time to get to know some of the featured authors before working with them. Janice Eidus in particular stood out to me. She specializes in fiction, but has also written essays. In The Wanderer, an essay published in the New York Times that deeply explores the directions her life has gone up until now, she illustrates how shifts in her environment from her youth into adulthood fluidly, unraveled the milestones in her life and sparked endless imagination of her future, which continued beyond the end of the essay, off the page—as all of our stories do. Even before plunging alongside her into this moving world of crumbling staircases, alcoves, and music on rooftops, when I felt I knew her at least on the surface as an “honorary Jewish Puertorriqueña,” I found her fascinating. She was raised in the Gun Hill projects of the northeast Bronx, where she and her friends devoted themselves to the promise of an education, as well as the toughness of the streets. After college, she sought the Bohemian lifestyle which would infatuate her for years to come.
I could see from the beginning how influenced she was by her surroundings, and realized the truth this holds for everyone, especially myself. I’ve mapped the universe around my neighborhood throughout my childhood, connecting it to the roads that trail out from my home in all directions, as if this minuscule slice of my city is right smack in the center of everything. I’ve caught myself carrying out internal monologues in the lyrical British of my best friend, whose accent molds seamlessly into her words and occasionally slips into her questions. I’ve spent long nights huddled on the floor of my bathroom, like Eidus when the walls of her studio apartment in Hell’s Kitchen proved too small, to sit with myself a while and breathe. As childhood friends vanished and a life-long love from a noisy walk-up on the Bowery appeared, Eidus saw more shifts. She named a new building her home, occupied with dancers and musicians and a woman who mothered her cats among other hobbies. She moved upstate and eventually found her way back to Manhattan.
Unlike her, I’ve remained rooted in the same spot since birth. My parents bought our simple stucco home with a baby in mind, and while much of it has changed, the carpet is worn with wisdom and wandering feet like paws kneading on old pillows. Being so grounded, I’ve become significantly blurred by the present and its quick movement. It’s left me with little head space to dream of my future. But Eidus reminded me that dreaming is necessary and inevitable. So is the aimless wandering that is required of life’s destinations. I see them as plot points on a map, each preparing feverishly in a sort of time lapse for the moment you will reach them. She hopes for a stroll along the Promenade and an afternoon on the playground with her daughter, as I do for a sunroom cluttered with monstrous canvases and books. Her words encourage me to watch my present, the gasping whirlwind, with eyefuls of dreams and hope. She encourages me to peer out from the palm trees to the vast expanse of rooftops and mountains, and to wander there.
-Alexis Williams, Junior Editor-in-Chief