In the Meantime: Shipwrecks of the Self
Ingrid Horrocks considers her time at Princeton during 9/11, how the public and private selves combine, how the last decade and a half of world events make the future seem uncertain, but how we can begin again.
In the summer of 2001 I looked after a large sunny house on the edge of the Princeton campus. The house had a small neat garden with pink and yellow roses in beds between gravelled pathways. The summer began quietly but by its end everything felt different. I was a year into a doctorate, and for reasons I still find hard to explain, I keep returning to this period when the world seems at its most intense and precarious: when I have moved between cities and when my daughters were born; but also, when world news seems too terrible to hear, when I heard of the Paris terrorist attacks, and over the week when Donald Trump was elected U.S. president.
On the evening before the house owners, Bridget and Jonathan, went away for the summer they invited me around for dinner. Bridget was editing her new book at the kitchen table when I arrived, while outside the early summer evening gradually honeyed into a deep scented yellow around the trimmed roses. Roxy, their cat, moved from one bench to the next to lap up the last warmth, and upstairs their new baby slept. I remember sitting in the dining room in a quiet, wine-softened state, for once released from the crippling sense of homesickness that had suffused the past year.
After Bridget and Jonathan left, the house became the centre of my new social group. One night we all arrived back from a party and I found I’d locked myself out. Two of the physics boys, Joel and Jeff, all of us a little in love with each other, helped break a window so we could get in, the shattering glass somehow thrilling in the warm night.
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