It all began when I found that book. It sat there on the bench at that little walkway between the emergency room and the south entrance to the hospital. The one where they allow the smokers to sit and worry about the people they had come to visit. I wondered if the person that left it had been there to worry, or to gloat. It doesn’t matter.
I picked it up, looking around to see if anyone looked like they might be missing it. When no one looked my way, I sat on the bench with it, opening and thumbing through it with a very light touch. It looked ancient, and deliciously tempting. An embossed leather cover with the edges worn, a sheen from hands running across the cover over the many years.
The pages were thick, and it was a moment before I realised it was not paper I was touching, but some sort of thin skin. Parchment? I wasn’t sure. I had never seen parchment before. I decided it must be. Rich and soft to the touch. My fingers lingered over the feel of those pages with a delight at my new treasure. Since no one was coming towards me, it must be mine, right?
The printing was all swirls and an occasional drop of ink, a splatter that looked as if it belonged amid all the neat letters. I considered it might be a journal, at first. Then I decided it must be a recipe book. A language I couldn’t read gave it a sensual appeal, and I wanted to check it out. I decided I would take it and try to figure it out, and then maybe return it to it’s spot on the bench. Or lost and found. I wasn’t sure which.
Once home with my new treasure, I sat at my desk, pushing the laptop to the side, and set the spine of the book on the surface, letting it fall to the page it was most comfortable with. It was a strange thing for me to do, but something within me liked the gothic feel of doing this. A tremble went through me, not of delight, or fear, but deeper. Like I had hit upon an instinctual nail, finding it’s way into me.
I looked at the old penmanship, eyes squinting, a slight headache throbbing somewhere behind them. I don’t know how I could have thought, before, that this was some foriegn language. It was english. The words appeared to have changed, even the writing was different, in that moment. I sat and began to read.
Two hours later, I closed the book, sliding it into the large desk drawer to the bottom right. I opened the shallow drawer that held pens and papers, and looked through the little box of keys until I found the key to the desk. I had never used them before, but for some reason, I felt I had to now. I locked the book in the drawer.
That evening, my dreams were jumbled conversations with friends and relatives that no longer walk this earth. Each conversation was intense and filled with information I did not have before. When I awoke, the dreams faded to almost a feeling, with no substance, but an uneasy feeling settled over me. I wondered, too, about the book, if it had anything to do with this, and when I thought about it, the realisation that I could not remember the words I had read the night before came upon me.
Each night I read from that book, each night I have those conversations, and each day I find I cannot remember what I read. For days, I would re-read those passages, trying to hold on to whatever I learned. Finally, giving up, I began to leave a slip of paper between the pages before locking it up for the night.
Tonight, I took the book back to where it was found, setting it down reverently, looking around and wondering who would pick it up. I hoped they would make better use of it than I did. I walked away, got in my car, and drove away.
I had considered making notes to remind myself. I think I did, once or twice, but those notes were the scribbles of a three year old, as easy to read as the original print of the book. I eventually learned to not do it. It seemed to be a waste of time.
Before I went to bed, I opened the laptop that had been neglected for so long. I figured I would check my email, maybe check some websites. Sometime or another, I had removed the power cord, and I opened drawers searching for it. Nestled in that bottom drawer was the book. I sighed, pushing the laptop aside again.
Time to read some more.
Finding a strange book can be such a delight, and a curse.