April 7, 2014
Last night after searching Netflix and Amazon Prime for a movie to watch with MSH you left the family room with a rerun of The Twilight Zone playing. Sure, MSH felt slight disappointment that you didn’t want to watch yet another science fiction program, but you’ve never like Twilight Zone, not even any of the remakes.
Remember how you sat down in your comfy chair in the bedroom, put your feet up on the side of the bed and cracked open a new book someone had loaned you? “Mmm…ahh…” Yes, you remember. What a feeling to start reading a new story. You were so excited to begin that you forgot to bring a snack in with you. No sunflower seeds, no ice cream, no popcorn, not even a bit of chocolate. Of course, you were only going to read the first chapter or two and then turn out the lights and call it an early night.
Something happened in that first chapter, or maybe the second, it’s hard to remember now with half a night, and half a morning, of sleep behind you. Looking down at the page numbers, surprised to see that you were in the low hundreds already, you kept reading. Well, you thought to yourself, it’s a YA, young adult book, so it’s a quicker read than most. It doesn’t feel very late. I’ve probably only been reading about an hour. But the clock on the nightstand faced the bed, so you couldn’t see the time and frankly, didn’t care.
You were fully invested in the story, the words, the lives described, the town, the plot, and the nuanced epistolary style of the book. (You remember epistolary? You’re tired today, so I’ll remind you that it’s a book written as a series of letters.) This novel felt more like you had stumbled on someone’s ribbon-tied stack of opened mail to a loved one than a book from a shelf. How could a person put down such a stack of letters mid-pile? Impossible. And so, you kept reading, letter after letter, word after word, and surprise after surprise.
MSH came in to the room after a while. Was it past midnight already? He’s such a night owl, he does his best thinking and programming after you’ve gone to bed. A trait you will never understand in people, as you’re a definite morning person. He laughed at you and said, “are you still reading?” and you laughed back and asked, “you’re not coming to bed already are you?” You wanted to stay where you were and keep reading, not turn down the lights and read like a child sneak-reading under the covers. And you didn’t want to jinx the magic by finding some other comfy spot to cacoon in for the rest of the book. Luckily, MSH found another something to keep himself occupied. You continued to read.
The thing is, it wasn’t really like reading. It was more like following along while someone thought aloud. Or watching from a distance and hearing everything that went on. You wondered, in the back of your head, how a writer accomplishes that. But mostly, you were so much a part of the story that you couldn’t, wouldn’t, mustn’t stop reading. It would make as much sense as stopping breathing, which is really difficult to do.
The last words of the book crossed your eyes. You hesitated, ran your hand across the page, held it there. What were you hoping for? A sensation transferred through fingertips of the author’s final thoughts? Whispered, unwritten words that the narrator might still wish to pass on to those who are listening with an extra measure of attention? Some feeling of completion, a symphony to accompany credits, a promise of another book?
Something intimate happens between reader and writer, in spite of, or maybe because of the distance paper and ink provides. How else to explain the desire, the drive, to meet the author of certain books? What you want is to meet the characters. Yes, I know what you’re feeling, you want to begin or continue a discussion with those very real characters, find out reasons, background, what happens next, more details about chapter eight, a recipe from chapter fourteen. Whatever little unfinished bits remained, you want more of them.
When you finally closed the back cover, running you hand over those words and illustrations, you let yourself set the book down on the nightstand. And then you simply sat. Remember any of your thoughts? No. Not surprising. You were returning from a journey of weeks, months, years, that had taken a mere four or five hours. You’d traveled through time and space and back past through who knows what science fiction-like means and had returned, intact, whole, and yet changed in subtle and significant ways.
Do you remember pulling the covers up around your ears and snuggling into the pillow? No, you don’t because your mind had wandered back inside the book and carried you dreamlike and floating through that town, the story, to the people. Of course, as dreams do, it all jumbled up with odd real life details. By morning, late morning, since you let yourself sleep in after staying up far too late, you’d lost the sweet vacation essence of the book and found yourself back in reality.
A day of to-do lists and sunlight stood at the door, quietly tapping its foot as you dragged yourself out of bed.
A day or two of no reading. After such sweetness as last night’s book, nothing more will satisfy. In fact completely satiated and full to the brim, you may not need another book for four, or even five days. You might find yourself searching for other books by the same other. That wouldn’t surprise us in the least.
Now, you’ve reveled long enough. Close the door on that book and move on. You have much to do. If you’re productive enough, you might allow yourself a short nap later on.