I stopped watching TV and bought a second and third bookshelf. I always knew I’d get them, but the idea was they would be the foundations of the room that would become my library. A decade into 600 sqft and I cast that dream into the idyllic sea. They were arranged as if they were 3 walls. If the TV wasn’t so flat I’d have got rid of instead of tucking it behind shelf alpha. It was easier that way. Boxes were dug out from closet shelves and the prescient nooks and crannies of the bathroom.
Things were unpacked and placed . A quarter shelf of unframed disposable camera photos, with some displayed leaning against a stack. Baseball trophy. Harmonica that’s been played twice; the length of time it takes to figure out Heart of Gold if you’re in the right key. Toys from the 80s. Toys from the oughts. A paperweight that sat upon my Grandfather’s desk. Korean ducks. Somethings were too small for the open shelf, so there was a shelf of boxes. One had wallpaper from my childhood home, an iron on Nintendo patch that never found a jacket in time, buttons and pins that were collected free of context. It still smelled like what was home, but every time a little less I assumed, or maybe I just didn’t remember it as well?
The left shelf was all books I’ve read. Four out of 6 shelves of knowledge and adventures acquired over nearly 20 years. It wasn’t everything, many had been lost, left behind, traded, but they were the ones deemed “important”. I could recount the “important” points of most, but never a single physical detail of any of the characters. Generations of descriptive prose have been unable to stick to me. It never made a single difference in my enjoyment or my English degree. I could remember certain THINGS though. The white car they drove, the heft of a sword, the dankness of a room, but no faces. I could also empathize, the feelings are all there. I can touch a book and remember if it excited me, intrigued me, changed my mind, or if I fell in love with an imaginary woman who’s face I’ve never contemplated.
The right most shelf was all books I hadn’t read. Nearly as full as its parallel counterpart. At least 5 years of books. Some ordered new at the click of a button, others scoured from the unreal stacks of a used book store, the wake of a flea market, or passed along as gifts by people I’ve never discussed books with. They used to sit below the read books on the single shelf, hidden by a chair placed in front. Less than a dozen have ever moved on up into the read pile in the last five years.
I stopped watching TV and placed a chair in the middle of the tiny room inside the tinier room made of books. There’s hope of cracked spines, a full shelf and an empty shelf. It’s been 11 days, I’ve started to re-read The Incredible Lightness of Being, and mostly stare at the white sides of stacks of old photos.