On the E train, a girl wearing thin-rimmed glasses in the seat in front of me. She's hunched over a book, lost in the story that's unfolding in her lap. All of a sudden, she looks up, startled. The doors are about to close on her, on Penn Station. She leaps out, catlike. A quick, precise, elegant escape. Nothing but a light breeze and the faint smell of lavender.
I smile. A reader. A dying breed. Caught between the pages of a good story, immobilized, trapped. Not all the megaphones and bells in the world could tear her away.
I go back to my own book, its beautiful prose, graceful imagery. It’s brilliant. I have to stop every so often to absorb what I just read, the elegance of it all. Amazed at the writer whose first book was nominated for the Booker. Even the title gives me chills.
It was "Zach" who turned me on to it.
"Was just reading your blog," he texted a few days earlier.
I thought he’d say something about my pathetic love life, my failed attempts at dating. Instead all he wrote was, "Have you read 'If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things?'"
“Zach,” I realize, also a reader.
So was the sales guy at Barnes & Noble. When I asked about the book his eyes grew wider, his whole face, nostalgia. A moment of recognition.
"It's the best book I've read in years," he said.
You could just tell, this man, like “Zach,” like the girl on the subway, an addict of fiction, salt of the Earth.
I’ve never been one of them. Not quite. I’ve always liked reading. Usually in the middle of one novel or another. But now something’s changed. I don’t know when. Just has.
Al Franken, Joan Didion, Elie Weisel, Jhumpa Lahiri. The Lost Language of Cranes, The Devil in the White City, A Million Little Pieces, the Kite Runner. There are more. Stacks of books consumed over the last few weeks on my bed stand, all earmarked, bloated with use, like carcasses after an overindulgent meal.
And not just in my bedroom. I carry a book everywhere. On the subway, at Starbucks as I’m waiting for coffee, on my way to work. Read-walking, entranced, in a daze. It's a miracle I haven't caused a multi-vehicle accident yet.
Maybe I’m reading too much into this. Maybe it’s just a much-needed break. From the world, from dating, from men.
Maybe this is the natural progression of life, curling up with a novel instead of a date.
Or maybe, just maybe I'm becoming a nerd.