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Hannah Kuduk

United States

She and Books and Life

April 25, 2015

FREE WRITING

4

They said that every book on her shelf would be there for one of two reasons. 

 

One.

Teach her a lesson. Open those stubborn, heavy eyelids of hers. Tell it to her as it is and not as she would wish it to be.

 

Two. 

Be a comforting friend and a lifetime love whose words have been rolled around in her mouth so many times that on any given day, if asked, she could trace every curvature of the language with her tongue. 

Creased corners and cracked spines. The kind of story that, when turned through her fingers again, will always remind her of that time when this same part was read by the fire on the first snowfall of winter, five years ago. 

And even though the pages are thin and can tear easily, she doesn't think about how fragile they are. She only thinks about how gentle she should treat them so that she will be able to read them again tomorrow and next year and in the next glorious lifetime. 

 

There came a day when she thought she had read all of the beloved books on her shelves. There was not a single fragment of insight inside that had gone unturned. Each was just another tattered combination of covers and spines and binding and paper and ink and—

Their crisp lines were starting to blur together. They were starting to feel the same. In her mind, they were. 

The scent of must and dust folded in the pages didn't smell like memories anymore...it just smelled worn. 

 

This is when she noticed it. 

At the tippy top of her teetering shelf, was a shiny new story, bound in gold leather. 

It was so beautiful. 

So far out of her reach. 

Her heart ached to feel the slight resistance of the binding as she opened it to the first page and became the first soul to hear the crack of the spine. She wanted to drink the words, not gently like sweet milk before bedtime, but urgently as if it'd be gone in a blink if she didn't suck it down fast enough. 

This beautiful book surely held the promise of new lifetime love. 

It was so high up, and she was so small. She would never be able to reach it, they said. But you see, this impossible possibility gave her all the more reason to try. 

 

So, one by one, she tore her abundance of once precious books off of their cozy shelves. She threw them into the air and they floated down like snow, no longer weighted with importance. Where the pages were once stained with the multitudes of life–longing and mystery, love and forgiveness, confusion and metaphor–there were only remnants of ink without her to derive meaning out of jumbled letters. 

 

The time came when the books were lying limp on the hardwood and without them, the shelves looked like a skeleton with no flesh. After all, what good is a rib cage without a heart to protect? However, she didn't notice. All she could think of was that golden book on the highest shelf, and the thought that, just maybe, it's story would be even more glittering and resonant than the tattered, old ones she had loved once before. 

 

So, gently, as if she didn't want to let them in on the secret, she picked each book up off of the hardwood once again. She smoothed their pages. Dusted off their covers. She stacked them carefully and methodically, one on top of the other, until she had created a grand staircase made of her old stories. A staircase that lead directly to the golden book on the highest shelf.  

 

She ascended the stairs. With each upward step, she was confident, knowing that each one would lead her closer to the top. The staircase stayed sturdy despite it all, because the books knew that without their stories, she would never have had the  confidence in her ability to reach the golden book on the highest shelf. 

 

When she finally reached the top and felt the glimmering, smooth leather in her hands, she knew that this must be the feeling of a lifetime love. A comfortable friend. A story that never gets boring, no matter how many times it is read. 

 

Slowly, she opened the book. There was no satisfactory crack of the spine to tell her that she'd been the only one who had ever and would ever open it. There were others who had previously loved the golden book, which up until this point had seemed exclusively made for her. She could feel foreign fingerprints on the cover. She flipped the paper with her thumb. Where her perfect story should have been written, only blank emptiness graced the pages. There was not a speck of ink to be found. 

 

They said that every book on her shelf would be there for one of two reasons. 

 

One.

Teach her a lesson. Open those stubborn, heavy eyelids of hers. Tell it to her as it is and not as she would wish it to be.

 

Two. 

Be a comforting friend and a lifetime love whose words have been rolled around in her mouth so many times that on any given day, if asked, she could trace every curvature of the language with her tongue. 

 

 

Where she thought that the most unattainable book with the most beautiful cover would be her lifetime love, it turned out to be a lesson. 

She wanted to drink the words, not gently like sweet milk before bedtime, but urgently as if it'd be gone in a blink if she didn't suck it down fast enough. Yet, blank pages spoke more clearly than the words of a perfect story ever could. 

 

Searching for something better almost always leads right back to the amazing things you have had all along. Appreciate them. They have lead you to where you are today. Give your precious attention to those who build you up instead of tearing you down. And while we are on a roll with cliches, please don't ever judge a book by its cover. 

 

 

For Q 

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