Growing up landlocked in Midwest suburbia, I yearned for the beaches and mountains I encountered in travel magazines. I’d mine stories about metropolitan capitals for snippets of foreign languages. I pictured myself reading French books in a Parisian café or extolling the virtues of pasta in Italian. I played a game that was part Amazing Race and part spin-the-bottle. I’d close my eyes and plot a point on a globe and then imagine what it would be like to joke with gauchos in Uruguayo or cross the Sahara wearing a djellaba. If I landed somewhere that I knew nothing about, I’d unravel its mysteries. If I ended up in a place known for trouble, I’d fight for freedom. And if I plotted a point close to home, I’d stay put and picture my life in a new way.
I still open in-flight magazines to the route map to fuel daydreams. Psychoanalysis is the tool I use to chart the imagination much as I suppose the allure of a foreign language was my ticket back when I was spinning the globe. The problem of joining a stranger on a journey across emotional landscapes is a lot like being immersed in a foreign language that, bit by bit, becomes familiar. In the process of psychoanalysis, experience becomes roomier and imagination all the more fascinating.