I wake up with the smell of dust and rayon in my nose. This is the guest room where my books are, spread out between four book cases and a small one in a junk closet. My mouth feels dry and my eyes are sticky. Some dream, I can’t remember. I was young and in the dream I was angry.
Sitting up on the bed, pulling my knees under me, my neck hurts and I want to sneeze. The book I was reading is open to a page discussing some abstract theory about god’s internal and external nature expressed in Korean terms. Sentences highlighted variously in yellow and pink. Notes scribbled enthusiastically in the margins. Bird scratches from a previous incarnation, long dead but still kicking. A small brown spot of mud or maybe blood, I don’t know where that came from because I’ve had this book for forty years.
On that shelf there, those are the very first toys my kid had when he was born. There, my old camera next to my father’s older camera. There, a shelf of all my diaries where I keep them. There, a jar of fountain pens I’ve collected. That shelf - books about God, about mysticism. How to meditate. How to leave your body. How to pray. How to care. How not to care anymore. That shelf there, great books of world literature. That shelf there, books about how to fuck fancy. That shelf there, books of short stories, many of them also about fucking fancy, the very best stories held up as lanterns in this my magician's garden where I come for ideas.
Running my fingertips over the pages of this book, this book here in front of me, where my head had laid drooling on it’s pages, the pages he wrote in. I once loved this book. Or rather he did. Where do the old ideas go to die?
I close the book, remember something and flip it open to the title page and there - its still there. It’s a blessing. But it might be a curse. I still don’t know. Something he found blowing in the trash of the street in a moment of doubt, in a religion where doubt was regarded as a sin and a sign of weakness. A quote from the Bible “I love them that love Me. And those that seek Me early shall find me.” A serendipitous gesture blowing in the wind among autumn leaves down a street in Minneapolis in 1973 held out to that young man who believed that God spoke to him through everything; that if he persevered he would fulfill his dream, not for wealth or fame or beautiful lovers - but to find God only. Where does such innocence go to die?
The cover of this pretentiously thick book is reverently pebbled black to imitate the cover of a Bible, which book it was meant to imitate and which book it was to him. Lifting the book, feeling the heft of it, there is a ferocious urge to throw it at the wall. I go so far as to raise my arm, but the anger changes to pity. It’s not the books fault. A book doesn’t choose it’s birthright any more than a person does. As Nixie once said “In the end we are only what we are.”
I jump off of the bed, feeling the ache in old bones, these well traveled mortal bones inclined towards solitude and self pity. This book, back in your solitary cell. Let your God, the God in your pages see you there. Let that God speak to me if He cares, because we have abandoned each other. Do not hope again, book. I am your god. I have forgotten you.
I open the closet, put the book back in its solitary cell on death row and leave it.
Oh - these boxes on this shelf here on top, they have all the cassette tapes he made from phonograph records of Shakespeare plays. He used to listen to these tapes on a little Walkman player when he was working in the machine shop late at night, without heat, without food, with hope and faith. Because he belonged to a tribe of people with high minded idealism. People who had their eyes on God. I don’t think I could do that now. There was a strength then which came from a belief in the triumph of goodness. What shall we do with all that beauty now?
These books, they stink of failure. What sadder punishment for a book than to never be read? Never be opened? Like a woman, once cherished, who knows she will never be caressed. Or opened.
There book, there you go. Know you will not be read.Sulk there in the dark alone.
For the love of God, Montressor! Yes. For the love of God.