arrived in the mail. A book so beautiful that I cried. Which made my children laugh a little. But there are books for them to love at first sight, too. They know. What is the difference between a watering in my eyes and my son’s sudden jolt forward towards a book on the counter, between my bubbling eyes and my daughter’s adrenaline surge when the pile of secondhand books, bought with a college-job paycheck, is placed in a bag by the cashier?
It is the third week and so far all I can manage is to cry over the beauty or suspected wondrousness of the books; to sleep with three or four of them under my pillow. I am so tired.
Still, there is something to be gained just from their proximity, from the knowledge that in a purse slung over my shoulder, wedged between a used paper towel, a wallet and a little bottle of Chinese medicinal herbs, there is a book that I will surely love; a book that will elicit from me the response that everything I know is connected to everything else out there outside my house, my street, my borrowed city.
I’ve taken, lately – these last weeks – to carrying the books around when I cannot read them.
“cannot read them” doesn’t mean that I begin to read and am soon interrupted by a call from of a far-away friend, a classroom full of students waiting for me, a pan of gyoza and rice and special sauce steaming on the stove with crooked burners. Rather, I cannot read, ever, at any hour during this time, in this part of a year in my life. My brain cannot read. It shuts down. It sleeps.
No, I cannot read at present, but the profound affection or attraction that I feel for these books – there are six, and five that already have me – is nevertheless undiminished.
So I carry them, as if with the intention to read today. I move them from table to car trunk to classroom to grocery store. I tell my son to bring along my book – he knows which one, it is already familiar to him – so that I can read during his rehearsals, his classes, his practice, his playtime. I carry it and splatter it with hopefulness. I cast a messy, unlikely charm:
Today I will read. Today I will read.
The rush of hopefulness lifts me, I can feel that I’m going to read, I plan to read it. The Book of Jon. I reread the first four pages as if I had not already done so six or seven times. My eyes begin to close. I can’t stop that from happening, then can’t open them. My head slips a little to the left, then drops to my left shoulder.
I cannot read, so I carry the book, all the books, the beautiful books, wherever I go.