Chapter no 64 – Volcano

The Midnight Library

It is quite a revelation to discover that the place you wanted to escape to is the exact same place you escaped from. at the prison wasn’t the place, but the perspective. And the most peculiar discovery Nora made was that, of all the extremely divergent variations of herself she had experienced, the most radical sense of change happened within the exact same life. e one she began and ended with.

is biggest and most profound shi happened not by becoming richer or more successful or more famous or by being amid the glaciers and polar bears of Svalbard. It happened by waking up in the exact same bed, in the same grotty damp apartment with its dilapidated sofa and yucca plant and tiny potted cacti and bookshelves and untried yoga manuals.

ere was the same electric piano and books. ere was the same sad absence of a feline and lack of a job. ere was still the same unknowability about her life ahead.

And yet, everything was dierent.

And it was dierent because she no longer felt she was there simply to serve the dreams of other people. She no longer felt like she had to find sole fulfilment as some imaginary perfect daughter or sister or partner or wife or mother or employee or anything other than a human being, orbiting her own purpose, and answerable to herself.

And it was dierent because she was alive, when she had so nearly been dead. And because that had been her choice. A choice to live. Because she had touched the vastness of life and within that vastness she had seen the possibility not only of what she could do, but also feel. ere were other scales and other tunes. ere was more to her than a flat line of mild to

moderate depression, spiced up with occasional flourishes of despair. And that gave her hope, and even the sheer sentimental gratitude of being able to be here, knowing she had the potential to enjoy watching radiant skies and mediocre Ryan Bailey comedies and be happy listening to music and conversation and the beat of her own heart.

And it was dierent because, above all other things, that heavy and painful Book of Regrets had been successfully burnt to dust.

‘Hi Nora. It’s me, Doreen.’

Nora was excited to hear from her, as she had been in the middle of neatly writing a notice advertising piano lessons. ‘Oh Doreen! Can I just apologise about missing the lesson the other day?’

‘Water under the bridge.’

‘Well, I’m not going to go into all the reasons,’ Nora continued, breathlessly. ‘But I will just say that I will never be in that situation again. I promise, in future, should you want to continue with Leo’s piano lessons, I will be where I am meant to be. I won’t let you down. Now, I totally understand if you don’t want me to be Leo’s piano teacher any more. But I want you to know that Leo is an exceptional talent. He has a feel for the piano. He could end up making a career of it. He could end up at the Royal College of Music. So, I would just like to say if he doesn’t continue his lessons with me, I want you to know that I feel he should continue them somewhereat’s all.’

ere was a long pause. Nothing but the fuzzy static of phone-breath.


‘Nora, love, it’s okay, I don’t need a monologue. e truth is we were in town yesterday, the two of us. I was buying him some facewash and he said, “I’m still going to do piano, right?” Right there in Boots. Shall we just kick off where we le off next week?’

‘Seriously? at’s amazing. Yes, next week then.’

And the moment Nora came off the phone she sat at the piano and played a tune that had never been played before. She liked what she was playing, and vowed to remember it and put some words to it. Maybe she could turn it into a proper song and put it out there online. Maybe she would write more songs. Or maybe she would save up and apply for a Master’s. Or maybe she would do both. Who knew? As she played, she glanced over and

saw her magazine – the one Joe had bought her – open at a picture of the Krakatoa volcano in Indonesia.

e paradox of volcanoes was that they were symbols of destruction but also life. Once the lava slows and cools, it solidifies and then breaks down over time to become soil – rich, fertile soil.

She wasn’t a black hole, she decided. She was a volcano. And like a volcano she couldn’t run away from herself. She’d have to stay there and tend to that wasteland.

She could plant a forest inside herself.

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