You can hear a book die when you close it.

If done in disappointment, it is a growl of defiance, or perhaps a pleading whine to which you turn a deaf ear. If in anger, it is the steely quiet of someone in the wrong; the small sob of a child who steps back from reproach fearing calloused palms and sticks and belts and whips.

If in shame, it is a gasp, and the quick rustle of clothes hastily pulled back up; it is bated breath after revelation; it is slow and painful exhales that begs forgiveness, or understanding at the very least, before it leaves for good. If in fear, it is scornful, knowing laughter: mirthless and unyielding and rings in your head a little too long. If in indifference, it is a scoff: a swallow’s wings in the final beating that launches it into the air, to flight, up and away.

If in awe, it is a storm’s breath: furious, magnificent, loud, havoc in its wake. It speeds past and fells weak hearts, words swirling in a vortex of what and why and where and how. Pressure drops, waters rise, heartbeats race and breaths stop—

—breaths resume, waters return to sea; the rush dies down and the skies clear and the pages lay limp, feigning innocence but smug in their silence.

But if, in rare occasions, a book is closed with a sigh, and flyleaf kisses flyleaf, and spine breathes in relief as at last it straightens like a ploughman after a day’s hard work, listen close: it is the deep hum of comfort and contentment as a book settles back into itself; it is the quiet shuffling of pages recreating worlds in joyful reunion; it is the footfalls of leather bindings marching to resume their posts as a book’s watchful guardians; it is a quiet huff as the words close their eyes and fall back into deep slumber. A book closed with a sigh does not die.

You hear its slow breathing for the rest of your days.

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