Once, I could not imagine that a book might hurt me.
It’s like this. Not much different. Reading, like lovemaking, is among our most private of pleasures. An act that asks for you to leave your armour at the door and wear only your vulnerability.
Books and their secrets. Books and the secrets they cannot keep. Like all secrets, what a book knows is power. With each page that turns, you grow roots within a bond that you accepted with complicity. Pasts reopen. Skeletons tumble out. Words reveal all.
I’ve loved women and men, and I have had relationships with books that at best can be described as, “complicated.” At worst, mercenary. And the scars? They exist visibly. Some nights, under the pale, stark light of a bed lamp, you might see the lacerations. Paper cuts leave memory stains unlike anything a cleaver might.
Books will spear through you, opening guts and spilling stories. There is no mercy. The only point a book has to make to you, is that it exists and you will obey. It is not unlike being in love with a narcissist. It is never about you. You’re relevant insofar as you make their existence the nucleus of yours. In this way, while you may have chosen the book, it is really the book that chooses whether it will own you. And when you close that book, your relationship ceases to exist. Your identity suspended, you have no choice but to return. How else do you matter?
Opening the pages again is like a fevered lover pulling you indoors by the collar and sucking on your neck until you are faint. Books are like hungry dogs. And when you read, you reciprocate that hunger. You hunt for the next bit of the story. You wait for the canid bite to sink into your palm and the soft, blanketing warmth of your blood that soon follows.
You know what happens when you don’t feed hungry dogs.
Now you are under this paper skin. When a finger runs along the embossed ink your pores furl open like a tightly wound rosebud. Your spine shivers.
Reading is fucking. Your throat is dry. Ink bores into your skin like a tattoo. And you cannot unknow what is now known. You share secrets.
What you know can break you.
The half-truths. The cuckolding. The fetishes. The abandoned babies. Bodies under the floorboards. The sodomised boys. The ugly girl. The torture. The vomity stink of fear. The palpable disease. The rot of vile bodies. The little lives. The fallen stars. The shame. The unrepeatable shame.
Every story a book tells you is the truest form of lie. No matter how it makes you feel, you are not the only one. There’s no construct for loyalty. The one who falls in love with the written word is a fool. Everyone knows what is written can be read over and over again by anyone.
You cannot give a book back what it gives you. There is no “returning your stuff” when breaking up is imminent. Even the nausea of, “Now You’re Just Somebody That I Used To Know” will not pull you out now.
What do I tell you? That those who do not read are more fortunate? I can’t tell you that for the exquisite torment of a being in the hands of a lover who is in your hands. Who asks for your everything and defects when its story is over. There are pieces of people all over library floors from where they came apart when they returned books. If you really want to hurt someone, tell them to read a book that left you with a baby you could not have. That should show them.
But you wouldn’t want to do that? Why do unto others what a book has so perfectly, and ruinously done to you?
Leave it. Those who read with everything revealed have it coming.