Who Are You When You’re Alone?.
By Jenny Torres Sanchez
I spent a lot of my time as a kid alone. My sister was much older than I was and my brother much younger, so I invented imaginary games to keep myself busy. I longed for an imaginary friend and tried to create one, but always had trouble picturing him/her completely. I roamed and explored all parts of my house, walked around the block by myself counting cracks on the sidewalk and looking at ants. I rolled snowballs and built snowmen by myself in winter. I had hours to fill with nothing but silence and myself and my thoughts.
The main character Dani in my novel Because of the Sun spends a lot of time by herself also. Her brash mother has died in a tragic way and she’s never known her father. The book takes place in Columbus, New Mexico, an isolated town that borders Palomas, Mexico, where there is not much to do and not many people to interact with. The burning sun keeps everyone inside most of the time. Here, there is nothing to distract Dani from memories of her mother and trying to figure out who she was and what exactly they meant to one another.
Being alone can help us come to terms with so many things, including who we are and who we could be. I don’t say this to undermine the value of friendship and family. Coming from a large Latino family, and spending so many holidays surrounded by primos and tias and tios and the competing sound of music and laughter, I understand the importance of having people around you. The exuberance of so much noise. But I also know the value of spending time alone. Hushed moments with no one and nothing else interrupting your thoughts. Time to think what you might never think if someone were there with you. And yet, we are often taught that being alone is a bad thing. That we should fear being alone with our own thoughts, ourselves. And it’s come to feel somehow unnatural to not fill those quiet moments with noise or clicks or information to flood our own unique thoughts.
Because of the Sun is about finding hope and beauty in even the most desolate of times, in the most desolate of places. Of finding beauty where we thought there was none, such as in a landscape that is stark and unbearably hot. Or a culture and people who are too often villainized. Or in individuals who have hurt us. And most importantly, in ourselves.
My mornings are filled with being alone, with my imaginary people I’ve now learned to more fully create and build stories around and who come into being because of those hours I spent alone as a child. In these long stretches of quiet, I build stories and try to make sense of the world and the human experience. It is a beautiful quiet.
Then I go home and my evenings are filled with the noise and laughter and chaos of my children and husband. I’m grateful for that noise. But I think I can hear and appreciate it more fully because of the quiet.
Jenny Torres Sanchez is a full-time writer and former English teacher. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived on the border of two worlds her whole life. She lives in Orlando, Florida, with her husband and children. Because of the Sun is her third novel. Visit her online at jennytorressanchez.com and on Facebook and follow her on twitter at @jetchez.
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