Fellow travelers


Last week I was in Vermont for the MFA winter residency.   Halfway through the residency I got sick–with the flu, as it turned out, and I think the adjective I’m looking for here is “virulent”–and I was pretty exhausted, physically and otherwise, by the end of the trip.  I was just simply lonely, too, and missed Abbe.  It’s great to hang out with friends and talk literature and everything else, but nothing compares with Abbe.

So the last night I wasn’t in great shape, and I think I was just ready to come home.  I looked for something to watch from my little apartment in single-digit temperatures.  What I found was Roger Waters’ The Wall, a kind of half-concert film, half personalized documentary account of the Pink Floyd album.

Listening to (and watching) Waters perform “Mother,” I had one of those visceral childhood flashbacks where you start to shiver.  (Well, maybe the shivering was from the flu.)  Because I found The Wall when I was 10, in 1980.  It was the first really “adult” music I remembered falling for.  And maybe because none of my friends, even through high school, shared my love of Pink Floyd, I claimed ownership, the way we all do of things we love, especially the things we feel — almost always wrongly, or incompletely — that we’ve discovered ourselves.   It’s not ownership so much as possessiveness.

I wonder how many things I have like that.  These loves that I’ve stashed away, without knowing it.

There are books I loved, around that same time, that have the same effect on me.  Hearing someone mention them brings a little tug of recognition — oh, you too?  Franny and Zooey?  You carry that around too?   Like we’re fellow travelers, somehow.

I wonder if there isn’t something about that age, being ten or eleven, if that’s not when you first start to love things outside yourself and your family.  We imprint ourselves on the world, or the world imprints itself on us.


About the author

Tom Howard

Tom Howard is the author of Fierce Pretty Things (Indiana University Press, 2019).

He received his MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Fierce Pretty Things won the 2018 Blue Light Books Fiction Prize, and his individual stories have won the Ninth Letter Literary Award in Fiction, the Indiana Review Fiction Prize, the Robert and Adele Schiff Award for Fiction, the Carve Magazine Prose & Poetry Contest, the Tobias Wolff Award in Fiction, the Innovative Short Fiction Prize, the Willow Springs Ficiton Prize, the Rash Award in Fiction, and the Robert J. DeMott Award for Short Prose.

He lives with his wife in Arlington, Virginia.

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By Tom Howard


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