The Selfish Book Lover

In her blog, my friend Fran asked what books you share.

The answer is simple: I don’t share no stinkin’ books.

I used to. When I was fifteen, sixteen, I loved lending out books–sharing words that meant the world to me or else foisting those words on others. Until a boy I liked taught me a lesson about that.

I’m not sure if I want to get into details, but I’ll tell you this: he had very blue eyes and lived very far away. He thought about things, and I liked him a lot for that. In my hometown, it was rare to meet boys who thought about things and also openly seemed to like me. I was this shy girl who was always blushing a lot but who, when provoked, had opinions and stuff. And I was strange–really strange. Not just because I liked fantasy novels and dyed my hair funny colors but because in middle school I used to eat the ABC gum off the bottoms of desks (ew!) because I thought it made me a bad ass or something. This boy didn’t know about these things, because he was from someplace else.

At the beginning of my senior year, I read Fight Club. I’d already seen the movie, but still, it felt like a revelation–I hadn’t realized that books could be like that, metatextual and poetic. Boundary challenging, you know? Later I would read Vonnegut and realize Chuck Palahniuk was not the first, but at the time it was a special, special book, as weird as I was. I lent it to every one of my friends. It was a movie edition, and the floppy cover got all dog-eared and curled. Just after graduation, this boy came for a visit, and we kissed–my first kiss–and I lent him the book.

Then he left and I found out he’d had a girlfriend back home the whole time he’d been kissing me.

I asked him to mail me the book, but it didn’t happen. I was tetherless–Fight Clubless. I learned something about lending books then: not to do it unless you can live without ever getting that book back. That’s not to say that I don’t have a certain generosity when it comes to books. In fact, I love giving them as gifts, whether used or new, love sharing words words words. But certain words I keep close to my heart. I’m selfish with them. They’re mine.

But there’s only one person who I lend books to–to the guy who is sitting in the next room chattering on vent right now. Nowadays our books are all mingled together on the shelves, so mixed up that they might as well be ours rather than his or mine. It doesn’t even bother me. I know I can trust him. I know that because on my nineteenth birthday–six months after I lost my first copy of Fight Club–he gave me another, a hard copy, nicer than the one I lost. And he wrote his heart down on the flyleaf in ballpoint pen.