Here’s a life hack. If you’re going through an identity crisis, if you’re not sure what you want to do with your life, if you’re constantly feeling lonesome, and yet there are people around you. If, every day of your life seems like an unending pit of darkness, if you’re hungered from life and its adventures, if you’re gullible, don’t read this book.
You’ll meet a girl by that name, Alaska. She’ll twist your mind, and your heart. When you first meet this girl, she’ll be in a peach tank top and cutoff jeans. She’ll tell you how some jamaa squeezed her boob, and when she gets close enough you’ll notice her warm cigarette breath. And her scented smell, of vanilla and sweat. After which, over the next couple of days, she’ll take all that you believe in, crumple it up and throw it out the window. And if you’re not careful, if you’re not tough enough she’ll throw you out as well, without a care in the world. If at all there’s care in her world. Don’t read this book.
Look, this isn’t a review. My thoughts on it shouldn’t be taken seriously. As a matter of fact I like John Green, the writer. That intro up there? I’m writing it from the eyes of Miles Halter, his protagonist. And Green is one of the few who I believe can indulge you that much. He’s good.
She loves drinking, Alaska. She loves sex just as much. She’s reckless and dirty. She screams and cries and laughs and drives fast, because that’s how she wants to die, straight and fast. And she smokes. A lot. Because she wants to die.
At one point Alaska makes Miles read something from some book. With your crooked heart you will love your crooked neighbour. Those words have stayed in my head ever since I read them, four times I read them. And when I was writing this I picked up the book and looked for them.
But this is where my story starts.
It was late last year. I was going through a phase, a dark yet innocent phase, a hard yet vulnerable phase. I was losing my grip on things, on family, on friends; I was losing my grip on life. But I had a lamp, set on a small cabinet beside my bed that harbored only a few books. And among those books, sitting in the haze of grey smoke curling on a black cover, was Alaska. Only problem was, that Alaska wasn’t mine, she was Miles’
There was a journal in that cabinet too. I wrote in it every night by that lamp, sentences meant to help me find a compass for my existence. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I too was looking for Alaska. My Alaska. So I could be more like her and then maybe she could save me.
Let me tell you about the time I almost got into the habit of smoking.
To this day I can’t remember what was going through my head when I first bought a pack of cigarettes. All I know is that the day before, I had written about it. How sexy I thought of the habit, how badass I’d look taking drags at them. I couldn’t wait to put my lips around a stick, so I stepped out the house, and lit one. I coughed my lungs out that night.
I’m travel hungry. When I heard we were going to jump 2015 down at the coast I was pretty excited. There I made my second bucket list entry, smoke on the beach, naked. [The first entry is going to Rome, in case someone was wondering] I figured I would have had enough practice by the time we got to coast, so I smoked. Again and again until I got it right. Boy I felt like Clint Eastwood!
I had mapped it all in my head, the day I would smoke on the beach. There would be no other soul there, just me and my cigarettes. Standing below the moonlight feet half dug into a million specks of sand, slightly intoxicated, I would smoke.
And I did. [Fully clothed, in case someone was wondering] Only, I got caught by the higher authority known to you people as Grace. She asked me why I was smoking. But I didn’t answer that question really. If I did though, and this would mean I would be feeling quite adventurous, I’d say this:
I’d say I wanted to light up my insides so I’d feel alive, I’d say I wanted to learn how to breathe again, say I wanted to stop living in a straight line, that I wanted to bounce off walls and keep moving. I’d say I wanted to learn how to feel with my heart, say I wanted to be crooked enough. I’d say I wanted to find my Alaska.
Only, my Alaska was right there in front of me the whole time. I had already found her but she was so beautifully crooked I couldn’t see all the parts at once.
She’s responsible for throwing me into that haze; she’s the one who suggested I read that book in the first place.
Sometimes I want to punch her when she says she doesn’t want to live long, but she teaches me what it means to love, how to think, and how to listen. She laughs, and she cries, and when that doesn’t make me feel manly it makes me want to cry along with her.
She makes me feel what I was trying to find in those cancer sticks.
She saves me.
Friends, if you want life questions answered in the most profound of ways, if you want to feel something within you, love, hate, longing, you know, the whole shebang, read this book. It’s something.
I haven’t been paid. I swear.