If books could speak to me, they would probably accuse me of not loving them the way that I used to… and they would be right.
I used to be a voracious reader, hungry for more, devouring every morsel, every word on a page was a tasty treat and if it fell on the floor I would lick it up regardless of the cleanliness. When you are starving everything is delicious and not to be wasted. I thought nothing of spending money for food on books instead, it seemed logical to do so as the books nourished me in a way food never could, and when I was deep inside the pages it was a sumptuous feast which made me oblivious to the needs of the physical world.
It was an escape into a sanctuary, a hall of knowledge wide and high, filled to bursting…
Then something changed.
It wasn’t a sudden change, it was a gradual climb up a set of stairs, the journey, the stairway, was a long spiral and I barely noticed when I reached the top as somewhere along the way I had zoned out the movement of the ascent. At the top my feet kept climbing for a while, stepping on air, still unaware… perhaps waiting for more steps to form beneath my feet, not accepting that the end had been reached.
The empty vessel which I had been experienced something which I thought was impossible. I had imagined that I could continue to fill myself indefinitely with all the words in the world, that I could keep reading until I died, that I could never be filled to bursting…
There had been times when I had taken a break from reading, unable to eat another bite, not even a wafer thin mint, I needed a moment or two to digest what had been ingested, to let the feeling of fullness subside… eventually the pangs of hunger would resume and so would the reading.
However this time was not like the others…
I could not accept this change. My feet wanted to feel the familiar climb up the stairs, the rhythm soothed me, stroking, brushing, caressing away the thorns of life, in some ways I never wanted to reach the top… yet there I was at the top.
I planted a flag in denial.
I bought books like I used to, placed them around me as though building a fort, walling myself in… if I wanted to get out, I would have to read my way out.
But what had once brought comfort, now became a source of pain.
I shifted gears into anger.
I tried to force a return to the way things were, had been… if I couldn’t climb up, perhaps I could climb down, backwards pretending it was forwards… but you can never go back. I banged my head against the wall of books, trying to knock some sense into myself, send shards of broken books, fragments of words into my mind. I wanted to force feed myself in the hopes of making myself hungry again… all I received was the sort of headache you get from the pressure of a swollen brain inside a skull which is stubbornly set.
From denial, to anger, to bargaining I moved.
If only books spoke to me the way that they used to… but I knew that they had not changed the way that they spoke. I had changed the way that I listened. I just could not listen anymore. Why… how… what… what was wrong with me, how could this happen, why had I taken such a precious resource away from myself. What could I do to return to the way things were, how could I recreate that which once was, why… why me.
Unable to escape into my sanctuary, lost and alone, I sunk into a wallow, a pit of self, the quicksand of depression.
If I couldn’t read, what else could I do…
Instead of reading, I slept. And slept. And slept. Until I was tired of sleeping. I stared at empty walls… their emptiness was soon too full to bear, scratches, scuffs, discolouration, dust. My eyes moved to the blankness of the ceiling. Seeing nothing…then I noticed a cobweb. And another. The floor… but that too was dirty. I tried to hide from it all in a cupboard, but that was too cluttered, the air was stale, damp, and made me sneeze. My eyes flitted around in panic, the world was closing in on me, the walls, the ceiling, the floor, with nowhere to hide… soon I would be crushed like a piece of trash in a compactor.
A glint of light in the dark struck my eyes and burned right through them into my brain, sparking synapses, reviving dying grey cells.
I stared at acceptance.
If I couldn’t read, what else could I do… bereft… at first, then… something else. The end was the beginning of… something else. Opening windows, opening doors, fresh air to blow away the stale, the damp, the dust, the cobwebs of the mind. Cleaning, decluttering, vacuuming, creating space… but nature abhors a vacuum and always fills a space.
As I cleaned out my closet, tidied up my act, put my house in order… letters appeared, doodles, words began to form, scribbles, uncertain of themselves, learning a new form of communication. Slashes of ink upon the blank pages of my inner book, the brushstrokes of a calligrapher painting images. I was writing…
As I wrote, I began to listen to the sounds emitted, and as I listened, I began to read again. A different kind of reading… of a different kind of book.