Friday, November 19

Between the Lines

I've just found a strangely perverse pleasure in one of my everyday activities. I'm a reader, I do it for fun, for leisure, and for complete pleasure. I've been reading an old read of mine--one I have read before, once, but probably 6 years ago, give or take a few months--and I have come across a great game of mine, one I've been playing for as long as I've been re-reading novels, but without knowing it was a game until today.

Since before I can remember enjoying books, I've turned the pages down. I dog-ear my books without my own knowlege--at the finish of any, there are at least 30 turned-down pages, folded back to the original state, but never quite the same--and I know I'm not the only person who does so. It's a natural phenomenon, one requiring no apology or explanation - the easiest possible way to mark one's page. I've tried other methods, and fallen short of the ease and comfort of the habit I've earned. It's how I do things, other users be damned. Thing is, until tonight, I never realized that the user might not feel damned.

I turned down a specific page tonight, on a trip to the bathroom, and realized that it'd been turned down previously. By myself. The passage after which I turned was:

"Very interesting," John said. "Very intersting indeed." He took a mozzarella stick from its grease-stained bag, broke it open, and looked with a kind of fascinated horror at the clotted white gunk inside. "People up here eat this?" he asked.

"People in New York eat fish bladders," I said. "Raw."

"Touche." He dipped a piece into the plastic container of spaghetti sauce (in this context it is called "cheese-dip" in western Maine), then ate it.

"Well?" I asked.

"Not bad. They ought to be a lot hotter, though."

Yes, he was right about that. Eating cold mozzarella sticks is a little like eating cold snot, an observation I thought I would keep to myself on this beautiful midsummer Friday.
A wonderful thing finally connected in my mind, when I turned that previously-turned page.. I'd done it before. It was a beautiful thought, and I remembered the strange pleasure I'd felt in re-reading books in years before--a great sense of having done this before, at this same exact point. It had a sense of cyclical wonderment that I'd never been able to put a finger on before. Amazing is the best word I can think of for it, and that's not really enough to give the form to it that it deserves. Does anyone else know the feeling? That "I've-peed-at-this-same-passage-before" feeling? I hope so. The emotions go as far back as my first library card, when it wasn't me who had peed (or gotten a refill, or stopped to discuss an idea with their classmates) at the same time as I did. It's connectedness, with the world.. or at least one other person. Maybe it's better when the other person is yourself, six years previous, but maybe not. Maybe it's the best when someone you will never know is the person turning down the page before you do. Maybe it's the most perfect then.

I closed the night of reading off with this passage, which I thought I'd also share. It's only a few pages later, but it's equally as good:

Matties old Scout was parked in one of the slant spaces behind the war memorial, which in Castle Rock is a World War I soldier with a generous helping of birdshit on his pie-dish helmet. A brand-new Taurus with a Hertz decal above the inspection sticker was parked next to it. John tossed his briefcase--reassuringly thin and not very ostentatious--into the back seat.

"If I can make it back on Tuesday, I'll call you," he told Mattie. "If I'm able to get an appointment with your father-in-law through this man Osgood, I will also call you."

"I'll buy the Italian sandwiches," Mattie said.

He smiled, then grasped her arm in one hand and mine in the other. He looked like a newly ordained minister getting ready to marry his first couple.
It's a great passage too, but I really put it in there to give you guys clues. The author should be totally obvious by now, but the first person to guess the title of the book will win a hug--after they fly me to wherever they live, of course--and also my unending adoration. That is, if they haven't already earned it.

No comments: