You can always tell when winter’s officially dead in New York. The city streets are suddenly chock-a-block with flea markets. Seriously, they begin springing up like daisies. People peddling the useless and discardable bits of their lives to folks looking to fill the holes and empty spaces in their own. I’m no exception. I’ve been on both sides of the table.
Yesterday, while meandering through one of the vacant lot bazaars, I ran into an old fraintance (less than a friend, more than an acquaintance) who was carrying a box of ratty old hardcover books that she acquired on the cheap. We get to talking and I’m surprised at how well the conversation is going (the memories of why we didn’t get along in the end hadn’t hit my expired warranty brain yet). She struggled a bit with the box so I offered to carry it for her and suggested grabbing a bite at a nearby greasy spoon.
Over a meal, we inspected the books. Titles I’d never heard of, in such a shoddy shape as to rob them of any resale value. But we both noticed writing in the margins of several of the books. Pages and pages of it. Questions. Annotations. Comparisons to real life events. Supportive statements.
My fraintance automatically assumed they were the notes of some poor person who used to be a book editor that somehow couldn’t reconcile the fact that their profession was a long dead thing buried in the occupational heyday of youth.
To me, the neatly stacked margin sentences seemed more like thoughts that refused to remain locked within a curious and fully engaged mind and instead tried to open a discussion, share opinions and points of view, enter into an intellectual debate over the content of paragraphs and dialogue. It read like a one-side conversation with the author. Chatting with a literary ghost.
I was actually intrigued by this notion and tried to borrow one of the books to examine at my leisure, but she was having none of it, calling my view a load of romantic nonsense. By this time, the memories of why I hadn’t gotten along with the fraintance in the first place began leaking into the cracks of our conversation and flooding the space between us.
She knew I saw a story in there. Knew that I’d end up borrowing the books one by one in an attempt to piece together a backstory and motivation for the margin writer. Perhaps I still will one day, I just wish I had access to the original reference materials.
Sally forth and be readful.
— Rhyan Scorpio-Rhys