Sunday, March 13, 2011

come on skinny love, what happened here?

I feel I need to confess:  I haven't read a book in its entirety since October. And before that, it was July.

I'm so ashamed.

I feel like something in my mind has broken. Somehow the words my eyes take in never make it all the way to my brain, but get lost along the way. Something about the wiring, I think. So my brain gets bored and starts to play outside while my eyes desperately plead, "We're losing him! Focus!"

But no matter how hard I furrow my brow or how many times I reread the same paragraph, my mind is already frolicking through the grass squealing "Weeeeee!" while my eyes turn to jelly in their sockets.

This is not a pretty thing.

Last night I watched a teenage girl read a book unwaveringly through the entire church service. The preaching wasn't there, her arguing sisters next to her weren't there, and the only time she looked up was, I'm pretty sure, when she felt me watching her. I of course looked away very quickly and nodded at the pastor as if I'd been listening the whole time. Ah yes, grace. Grace and Jesus. Jesus is gracious. Preach it brother man. Amen.

But I wondered, what happened to me? I used to be that girl. I used to come back from Christmas breaks and answer the questions of what I'd done by listing off how many books I'd read. I used to make the world disappear and come back to reality smelling like pages and ink. I used to read.

What. happened. to. me.

So today when I took my parents to O'Hare, I decided I was going to stop in Milwaukee on my way back and kneel at the altar of Barnes & Noble until my heart was right with the printed word. Shed the tears of repentance on the green carpet of forgiveness. You dig it? Oh Book Land, take me back.

But when I got there, I didn't even know where to go. Fiction? Nonfiction? Journals?

I went to the bathroom. Like a bride who steps up to the long aisle runner of the sanctuary and then veers off to fix her veil in the lobby mirror. There's nothing wrong with her veil. She's just a coward.

When I walked into the bathroom, a tiny girl with thin blond curls stood against the wall, looking worried. She held her hands, coated in soap suds, in front of her, like a surgeon freshly-scrubbed and ready to take an unexploded grenade out of a North Korean soldier. (I take most my facts about doctor life and behavior from episodes of M*A*S*H.) Her mother stood next to the sink with the water running. She was pregnant and clean-looking, like she shopped in the maternity section at GAP. She glanced at me briefly when I walked in, then looked back at her daughter.

"Is it the water?" She asked. I gathered she was trying to figure out why her daughter, who looked like her name was Daisy or Phoebe or something else dainty and fragile, was having a breakdown. "Do you want a towel? Can you tell me what's wrong?"

I went into a stall as she patiently asked more questions. The little girl continued to answer her mother with absent whimpers, like she couldn't remember why she was crying and had already begun to think of other things, but still needed to be upset because she'd already started to be. If she couldn't explain what was going on inside, the only option was to keep up appearances on the outside.

I get you, Daisy.

I walked around Barnes & Noble four times, then walked out the door feeling as though the store and I were strangers, when once we dwelt together in familiar communion. I left like a dried sponge where once I soaked my parched mind.

Good news is that the world is ending on May 21 (according to the people on the street corner with a big sign saying "JUDGMENT DAY"), so I won't have to worry about finding the little lost fibers of brain that have detached themselves from their cranial epicenter. Come back, little fellas. I miss feeling whole.


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