My bookshelf, should one ever browse through it, is not a happy shelf. It is full of the heart-wrenching, the defeated, the forlorn… The books I own are largely ones that dwell on existence and loss, grieving and never moving on.
Of all I have ever been intimate with, sadness was the one that never got away; that stayed; that I knew best.
I have become accustomed to the sensation of having parts of me chopped into pieces by anything I read; I savour angst and melancholy, revel in late-night tears for another’s plight, and denigrate too much unwarranted happiness. To me, there are none quite as beautiful as watching a character unfold before their conflict, as compelling as reading of their pains and how marvellously it renders them mute and deaf and blind and numb to everything. None quite as beautiful as watching them rise above their selves, and conquering, and reigning victorious but incomplete because the fight took so much of them with it. None as compelling as seeing the scattered ruins of who they once were peppering the pages, strewn all over the words that still tell their story, over distant phrases and clipped replies echoing sentiments of the person that lived and died a few chapters ago.
I seek the life that I live when the author’s tale swerves sharp and rams me into a brick wall of emotions. I have no idea what to do when it does happen, but I bask in the ruinous aftermath of all my tiny pieces floating gently in the air and falling back into place; of me catching my breath as I put the book down, infinitely aware of the weight that crushes me, unnamed but familiar; of the silence in the wake of the crash, resounding, deafening, comforting.
Recently, I have come across copies of Annie Dillard’s works — For the Time Being, An American Childhood, The Living, The Writing Life — and bought maybe the last two paperbacks of Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning. I am ready to live again. I know for a fact that these books will tear through me new holes of wonder and disbelief at the life I have been living, and the utter inadequacy of what I know about the world I live in, but I am ready.