Tuesday, March 26, 2013

with my skin and teeth.

There was a used bookstore about four blocks from my apartment in Colorado. Having few acquaintances and fewer friends, I'd rummage through the racks like it was a singles bar, raising eyebrows at titles, smiling at imagined winks from tattered covers and yellowed pages.

I'm not someone who has "types" of anything—not romantic partners, not taste in film/music/literature, etc., but it took little time to note the consistency between titles with the famous (infamous, if you're my wallet) Penguin Classics spine.

They look like this:

These aren't specifically my books, of course—Baudelaire? come on, dear reader, pull your head out of your ass—but my bookshelves are lined with these black bricks like they I was building a castle. In a corner of my (relatively) new apartment in downtown Salt Lake City, Melville, Amis, Steinbeck, and others sit side-by-side, bringing their continuity to my literary home storage and a sense of collection among the ribald riff-raff that most of my shelves contain.

I'd spy these spines with a collector's eye, trudging through tripe and sorting through scraps to find gold bars among copper, the kind of books that would look good on a shelf and in my brain. I devoured them like cotton candy and had the fingers to prove it, sticky with black ink and a self-defeating desire—need?—to consume them all. My every-other-nightly visits to a dimly lit corner booth at Tony's Sports Bar found me accompanied by gorgeous covers and corrugated pages. I occasionally found myself wondering if I was being flirted with by denizens of the establishment, half-drunk women asking what I was reading when what they really seemed to be wondering if, literally, I came there often.

I did come there often, though, and although it was a fair question, I had no interest in answering. None of these real people seemed to be as interesting to me as the fictional ones between the onyx covers I held between calloused fingertips.

But Colorado was sad. So I left, went to a small horse town in New Mexico for a year, and found that nothing had changed. I still ached for stories, real or imagined, and I spent far too much money and just barely too much time trying to summon them, letting conjurers at far-away, long-ago typewriters do my dirty work while I held vise-tight to their coattails, letting hours get whisked away like fall leaves from autumn oaks as I looked into the distance, hoping that I'd one day be a part of something worth writing about.

And right now, back in Utah, years later, I'm sitting on a couch in a sparsely furnished apartment, watching you cook up a presentation about arachnoid cysts for your class tomorrow, and wondering what powerful, mystical stranger I incidentally gave a dollar to in order to have received the bizarrely fortunate gypsy curse of being a part of this thing into which we've stumbled.

I know that this sappy shit is a pretty staunch left turn from the pensive, I-just-really-like-books-but-am-also-sorta-melancholy thing, but you have to know: when we were at dinner tonight, when we got the hot chocolate, when you received your first true exposure to Louis CK, and when you showed me pictures of brain tumors and annotated them accordingly, it pushed so many things out of my mind that the transition from self-aware essay to saccharine love letter isn't really all that surprising to me.

Because that's what you somehow, click-clack-click-clacking away at that keyboard and writing about cranial bases and incidentally discovered asymptomatic maladies, consistently do:

wipe away these inconsequential narratives that my dumb brain constantly throws to the forefront like a neon marquee, but not before replacing them with a reality that manages to surpass anything caught between any covers that aren't laying on a queen-sized bed.

1 comment:

Rachel said...

You're pretty amazing!