Do inert, lifeless things accost you in public? Those sons of guns buttonhole me all the goddamn time and I’m getting tired of it. Yesterday a book jumped out at me in the library, stopping me dead in my tracks. A woman barreling along with a stroller ran right into me. Hard. These constant shenanigans have to stop. What if I’d been on stairs? Or the woman had been using a walker? Yep, disaster.
This book, the one that grabbed me in the library, had a squirrel on the cover and Veblen in the title. Who can resist that kind of beguilement? I can’t; I’m not a strong woman. So after I unhooked the stroller from my heel and apologized, I opened the book and rifled through the pages. A squirrel featured prominently in the part I read — swell, I’m a sucker for squirrels. So I swooned and made a beeline for check out with the book clamped tight to my chest.
It’s here with me now, unmoving since it has my attention. I’ll read it and lose my heart, I know I will. When I’m done, I’ll have to return it to the library. Those are the rules. I may abide by them, but I hate them. I really resent having to return books I love. It’s like dumping a friend and feels very, very wrong. But I’ll do it. Begrudgingly.
Then I’ll hustle off to Barnes & Noble, buy a copy of my own, and feel a little better. It won’t be the same, though. Something will be missing from the crisp, new edition, it always is. Could it be the shiny acetate film libraries wrap their books in? The dog-eared, well-thumbed pages? The stamp inside the cover?
No, I think library books have the ineffable something that comes from being temporary, a fleeting, doomed love. Ownership is, you know, a marriage: comfortable and reassuring. Books, however you come by them, though, are a flipping treasure. Yay, books!