Admittedly, I find it cute and amusing when someone says the following to me: I know you, Beth.

As much as I wish this was not the case or will be viewed by anyone with seventh-grade mentality as immodest, I am a smidge complex. The layers that Blooming Onion appetizer thing at Outback boasts?  Child’s play.

Are there some people in the world who know me better than others? Rhetorical. Are there some who’ve only known a particular part of me, a part I purposefully chose to allow them to know? Rhetorical as well but I’ll give you a clue: the majority.
We all conclude daily whether or not we know someone, particularly someone we just meet. We use “know” synonymously with I could hang with that person easily and go have a beer; they seem really cool.  Subsequently, we use THAT whole conclusion synonymously with man we have a lot in common. But how much do we really know about someone?  I mean really, truly know?

For example, I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that my friends might use some quasi-nice adjectives to describe me (I said friends, not haters.)  Yet, who among men (or women – it’s a saying, people) would know that I relish bookstores and libraries? Honestly, I think most of them would argue  they knowthere’s no way, that I’m just trying to somehow trick them into believing there’s another petal on that onion. But they’d be wrong and I’d be further amused.

I adore books. Not in the traditional “I like to read” sort of way; rather, in an “I am absolutely in love with them” sort of way.  Being a lover of language, I’m not sure if this is due to the adrenaline rush literally being surrounded and ensconced in books causes; or, from the mere idea of the endless possibilities they contain.   Maybe it’s simply because I know the story I want to write.  And how I (still stupidly) long for it to end…

I have a particular affinity for used bookstores. You know, the kind of stores that are bursting at the seams with so many books in racks and bins spilling out onto the sidewalk, beckoning me like dark chocolate and Riesling to come hither and have a look around. How can you not be immediately seduced by the countless titles calling out from the unsteady makeshift shelves haphazardly strewn outside? Stretched out are endless rows of real and imaginary tales beckoning to be discovered by just the right person; that one person with whom the story will resonate, their own life drawing an eerily similar parallel.

Because we MUST know how the story ends.

Once, I picked up a book about Tristan and Isolde.  When I stopped rolling my eyes, I noticed an inscription on the inside cover which read:  “1989 – To my dear friend JK, this needs no explanation.  Always, Anne”  Those words alone stirred up so many immediate emotions.  Where the hell was the dark chocolate and whiskey Riesling hiding in this place?  I had no idea who JK or Anne were, but I absolutely wanted to know their fate…how their story ended.  Come here and tell me, Anne.  That way, I can either rejoice with you or punch you in the head to knock some sense into you.

I‘ve been this way for as long as I can remember. I used to ride my yellow Huffy down to the public library and just sit for hours, secretly wanting to be in charge of the Dewey Decimal System which seemed very Nancy Drew-ish in all its early mystique.  I finally got up the nerve and announced my selfless volunteer position to the Library Director a week after visiting regularly. She laughed; I was serious (her name badge was totally filed under “B” in that cataloguing system.)

The smell, the temperature, the rows and rows of knowledge kept me coming back for more. And as I grew up and found myself away at college, it was that Library anchoring “The Circle” just down from Mirror Lake where I’d go in the middle of the night to rehearse the plays I had written, providing me solace in a time of uncertainty.  Yes.  Yes, I was in control of those endings when I couldn’t even see what my beginnings looked like.

People who “know” me may think it’s silly that I consider such things about plain, old, used books. But I actually think it is because they are so ordinary, so unremarkable in their existence that they are of such unique value.  They are used books, hand-me-down narratives, second and third-time-around stories.  They’ve been beaten up, abused, laughed at, cried over, held tightly, and anxiously awaited. 

These books carry with them the indelible marks of everyday humanity. Much like the people who read them.  The end.


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