Two women had stopped me on the Princes Street, asking for directions, obviously thinking I was from Edinburgh. It’s the middle of the festival, and the city is packed with tourists, but it took me a minute to realize that they thought I might be able to help them.
“I…um…I have no ideasorryI just moved here last week. What?”
“Harvey Nicks. Harvey Nichols. Do you know where it is?”
Like anyone else might do, I pulled out my phone, found it on the map, and walked thirty meters with them to point out where they were going. But as I turned to continue my walk home, I stopped for a split-second in the street, smiling, because the scene reminded me of the first chapter of The Great Gatsby, in which Nick Carraway says,
“It was lonely for a day or so until one morning some man, more recently arrived than I, stopped me on the road.
“‘How do you get to West Egg village?’ he asked helplessly.
“I told him. And as I walked on I was lonely no longer. I was a guide, a pathfinder, an original settler. He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.”
I’ve always found literature to be enriching; sometimes, though, there are those little moments when it feels like you’ve walked into a book, and the enduring voices of previous generations echo your own experience. A Marine might read about Thermopylae and be reminded of his time in Fallujah; a land-bound sailor might read about Drake or Cook and feel the ocean suddenly roiling beneath his bed. For me, I’ll take East Egg and West Egg and hope that my neighbor throws some glorious parties.