Thursday, 18 February 2010

Coming Up - Something Very Quiet is About to Happen

March 2nd, 3rd and 4th at the Battersea Library for the BAC at 6pm and 7pm. Here's a sneaky preview...

Found in a reference book from the 1980s or earlier. Something like “A Guide to the Scottish Highlands.”

Hello! It’s been a long time I’ve been staying quiet. There have been scratchy hands, soft hands, delicate hands, indifferent hands, now your hands, which aren’t much different from all the others, if we’re being honest. If we’re being honest, yours are nearly indecipherable from all the others. They do seem to be in a bit of a hurry. Like all the other hands. I’ve tried to get used to that. I’ve had a lot of people hold me with hurried hands. People who have underlined, then erased me. They’re not the worst of course. The worst would have to be the last few people – most everyone I’ve met in the last ten years. I’ve moved around a lot lately, you see, and I mostly end up sitting on someone’s shelf because I’m illustrated, gathering dust. Never getting touched. Never getting used. I was even in a box full of other books just like me owned by an interior decorator for a while, and she’d put me up on shelves lined with others, like me but different, and take pictures of us together in odd places in rooms. It was very embarrassing. A lot of words would go around at times like that, a lot of hands shifting and reshifting me, never opening me, no no no, just touching me, reshuffling me, in too much of a hurry. It’s been a long time, you see, since I’ve been held.

And believe it or not, I’ve only twice been read from cover to cover. Once it was by a young woman, I thought she was one of those decorators, buying me to fill her shelves, because of the picture on my cover. And then one day, out of nowhere, she picked me up in a way that felt very determined, and she opened me up at the very first page, the very first page, she read the introduction, the thankyous, everything, and every few days for about three months she read me. She was quite slow, but I didn’t mind that. In fact, I quite liked it. Sometimes she would even stop reading, hold me in her lap, and just look up and think. I liked that part very much. I could always tell when she was going through the motions, when she wasn’t really interested, when she wasn’t paying attention. I learned her movements well. Her hands would go limp and indifferent, and sometimes she’d nod into me, but I didn’t mind that either, because she would always flip me back a few pages and go much slower than before. She was determined to know everything I had to offer, and I liked that. I especially liked it because she took me to India, and to her friend’s cottage by the lake where I was nearly dropped in the water, but saved in the nick of time by a little boy in a red cap. And she would often fall asleep reading me in bed, where I’d rest beneath her pillow. This is probably regular fare for the other books. The fiction, those smug bastards on those shelves over there. But for me, this kind of attention was very special. An older academic who referred to me often also read me from cover to cover, lovingly, well held, but he was used to that kind of thing. He had me and many others like me, and he pored over all of us, equally. But this young woman, it was something about her determination and the surprise of her attention that charmed me. When I would get lost beneath her pillow and feel the fabric gently shifting up and down on top of me I felt whole and right and purposeful. I have to admit, and perhaps it is embarrassing, but I have to admit that now, every time I am picked up, browsed through, which isn’t very often in this endless, dusty place, I find it very hard not to harbour a kind of hope – a kind of impossible hope – that maybe this person, maybe this hand, maybe they will hold me again and decide to know me for everything I have to offer. You see, it’s sad, but I don’t think I deal very well with these sorts of casual encounters.

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