I’ve been in the habit of telling my parents a story – that I have a job.
After all, stories are indeed part of it. There is the usual narrative of course, which is never seen as such but instead as ‘normal’ – that I get up at 6 am with the appropriately misted eyes, straighten by body into a collar and a pair of shined shoes. They praise my dedication to ‘occupation’, the assumption stops them reading into things anymore.
But I sift through stories, I cannot assume anything.
For every week-day morning I go to the town library. I stay there at 9 am, in the fictions section, beginning ‘A’. Then at my ‘lunch break’ I board a bus to the next small town and go to the library there, again to the fat laminated ‘A’ in the fiction section. I will ‘work; through them, I will gain experience, I will earn - nothing.
Why are they hated, those who gain yet earn nothing?
But everyone is assuming, happy in the knowledge of my ‘occupation’. The old women who observe me, cross-legged in the corner, nursing the book over my knee, think I am ‘on break’ from the office. The librarian may think I have been jilted by a partner, a lad working as a town centre apprentice clerk or something similar.. (meaningless phrases)
Yet the only intimacy I have, the only solidity beyond assumption, is the book; the smoothness of the spine, the beautiful sensation of turning pages. In a place so public it makes my skin creep. And the connections. The delicious sensation of seeing people, reading. Sometimes I will go and pick up the book after they’ve pulled away and hope to follow the lines that they did. Best, perhaps, most savoured, those books bound in tarpaulin or a fixed fabric, so the title cannot be read. It makes the ‘outsider’ ‘guilty’ (ah, what apostrophes can mean) I have to imagine the genre as it works its way across the readers face, over their mouth, into their eyes. I see people reading and disappointed, exasperated, angry, I heard a man mutter he wanted advice that was ‘easy to understand’. I am trying reading people reading. I know that I feel something different, yet in a string of words, we are monetarily connected. Sometimes, library books have pages so worn the edge of the paper has begun to curve.
Like the slight curve of my palm as I wish I could offer this to you.