I didn't mean to. At first it was only a quirk, a hobby. You know- mildly eccentric but harmless. It made me happy. It isn't as if I ever chose to be this way or woke up one morning and decided "I know! Today I'm going to spend the money I had set aside for food for the week on a book sale!" Isn't that charming? That darn Sheshka, always so zany with her little habits. She really should manage her money better, learn some self control. Why doesn't she read the books she already has?
I used to have things under control. I worked at a library, put all my money straight in the bank and from there sent it straight on to the hospital, taking care of the bills before I ever saw a dime of it. And the books! I was surrounded by them, all day long for every waking moment I could spare. I came early. I left late. I read thousands of passages, articles, bibliographies, journals! I could scarcely believe my luck- words and words and words and words. I was happy. Too happy.
I tried sharing my enthusiasm! I would set up shelf upon shelf of displays, recommend my favorite tales and novels. At first it was an easy balance. Read books, rave about books, recommend books, read books, shelve books, read books, read books, read books... I was fired. I wasn't working. I was too busy. I wasn't helpful, I never noticed their presence. I could have done so much but then I got wrapped up in everything I could see and became blind to the world. I have a problem.
I managed to stay away for two days before I went back. I kept myself occupied, too busy to read. I cleaned the house, I visited my mother, ("Now, Sciezka, don't be working too hard!"), I went out to buy ingredients for real home cooked meals. I called up old friends I'd lost track of to see how their children? spouses? parents? are doing. Or if they were still alive.
There are 24 hours in a day. In two days, that made 48 hours. I counted each one of them. Wolfe's Essays identified this process of fragmentation and separation- people discovering and cultivating distinct identities, going off by themselves, literally or figuratively. But he also noted a second, related phenomenon: a widespread, eclectic religious revival. The Seventies: The Great Shift in American Culture, Society, and Politics. Page 80. Bruce Sculman. "A fine antidote to less sophisticated efforts to make sense of so seemingly empty a decade" -The Globe. Arial thin, 12 font, centered third paragraph down. The last person left a coffee ring over it.
I remember too much. Nonsense, all of it. I'll be the first to tell you that. My nonsense. My precious, precious worthless memory. I couldn't do it. I told myself it didn't count if I was only holding the books. Organizing them. Touching them. Remembering them. Word for word I went through almanacs and histories. It didn't help. It went too quickly, a flashback instead of an adventure. I can't read books twice. It isn't the same. I can't even take it slowly because my eyes take the next word and the next before my hands even catch up to the fact that I've turned the page. I hold on to everything, every detail as clear as if I'm seeing it now. Not all at once of course, I know I'm crazy but I'm not being driven mad by a thousand furious storms of thunder and lightning, alighting the men leaving destruction in their wake. I just... don't ever forget. If I'm reminded of a book, I can tell you what color the ink stains were on the margins, what perfume the woman who sold it was wearing, or even how many pages it took to get to the good parts. Useless. Snips of information that don't matter to anyone. Books books books. Everything is always about them.
So I went back to the library, begged for my job until the Ex-Admiral took pity and let me stay on probation. With no pay. I shouldn't have taken it. I couldn't afford to agree. My mother needed my support, but I couldn't even do that right. I took the job. I couldn't keep it. Even for free I was a "disruptive influence". I stayed about a week longer, hiding in different corners to finish off what I'd started. I read them. I read them all. Every pamphlet, every edition I hadn't seen. I breezed through the periodicals and cookbooks, military logs and timelines. I left it empty. The library had no pages left for me. No reason to stay.
I tried bookstores next, coffee shops with alcoves, travel agencies with wondrous maps! The guides kept me busy as I filled my mind with more and more. I was always hungry. Yes, that way too. Budgeting did not become any easier when I lost my steady job. But I was hungry, with a gaping hole that could never be filled. I needed more.
I'm scared. I know how this story ends. The girl who fills herself to the brim and keeps stuffing in more and more will burst and break. Sheshka, the overflowing fountain, flooding the streets with blood of ink! I can't take any more stories. I can't stop searching for them.
Without the stream of words all I can hear is the waterfall, a crash of information calling to me by name. "Sheshka! Sheshka! Worthless fool. You know nothing. You are nothing. Nothing can change you from who you are!" Or "Sciezka, I won't last much longer. You should let me go. Daj mi buzi, daughter. Live your life." Or maybe they are saying "Damn it girl, can't you do anything right? I hired you to help the customers, not sit around with your head in a book!" It's too loud. And I'm hungry. I don't stop myself.
I'm running out of places to go and poems to buy. I can't keep doing this and soon there will be nothing left for me to take. I can't leave my mother. I don't want to.
If I can't find anything more, than what do I have? Who am I going to be if everything I am gets taken away from me? What will be left?
I'm filled to the brim with words and ink. I don't want to die.
Who will be left to be Sheshka?
I need a book.