Here’s an optical effect well-known to summertime readers—raise your hand if you recognize it:
You’re walking the streets with your nose in a book. Maybe you’re coming home from school, or maybe you’ve just been out wandering. It’s a beautiful sun-drenched day, but you experience it only at the margins—your eyes are focused on the bright white pages, and you’re reading steadily, flip flip flip, just as steadily as you’re walking. You are in the zone, somehow navigating busy sidewalks and complicated intersections using only your peripheral vision and, I don’t know, your medulla oblongata or something.
Then, you get home—you’re still reading—and you cross the threshold. Suddenly, the page under your nose is glowing. There’s a weird color-shift that happens, sort of a buzzing red/green effect. It’s almost as if the page has soaked up the sunlight and is now shooting it back at you here inside the house. It’s slightly painful; you squint and keep reading. It’s best not to look up, because if you do, you will realize that the whole house is color-shifted, too. Your eyes are confused and overloaded, because they’ve adjusted themselves to the white-hot square of the book.
Every time I experience this (which is often, and includes five minutes ago) it triggers a little burst of nostalgia. It makes me think of all the summers I’ve spent reading and all the places I’ve wandered back to: my childhood home in Michigan, my old dorm room, my first apartment in San Francisco. I can very distinctly remember being nine and eighteen and twenty-seven, always squinting and waiting for my eyes to re-calibrate, but never, of course, actually putting the book down. Never even considering it.