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Home Amidst Ink and Coffee Beans

I’ve lived here for two months already, and it’s clear this space does not allow for another. I am left holding fragments of two homes in my bare hands. Norfolk has discolored from memory; New Haven has not materialized. I stop myself from waving hello to old friends on Cross Campus. They do not exist here. My dorm is decorated like my childhood bedroom—it is familiar but not the same. 

I swipe my card for a vanilla chai and a tattered paperback. Book Trader Cafe unites worlds: vintage and new, books and coffee, students and locals. Here, there is motion and stillness. Baristas bustle about, people stop to flip through a book then run out with a cup in hand. Stacks and shelves of novels are indomitable as they loom over me, but if I take one out the rest falls to a slant. Everything is a counterbalance; everything exists in harmony. 

Each book is a living archive that would have been forgotten if not recorded; the pages are yellowed but their contents remain. Time sharpens their stories and they endure discoloration. Running my fingers along cracked, well-loved spines, I think home has come into focus for me now. Though discrete, the two cities can coexist. My past and present are reconciled.

-Tina Li

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