Two lives, no books

This post comes from a brief exchange that I overheard, at a garage sale, yesterday morning. A man and a woman, both looking to be in their forties, paused at the same moment and gazed down into a box of books that was for sale. The woman reached down and started fingering through the books, registering some interest in the titles and cover art, and flipping through the pages of one of them. She touched the book pages as if she were Robert Frost sighing at something; as if they were the leafy yellow artifacts picked up from the side of a road that she might have taken in life, but failed to:

Woman: I never had the patience for book reading.

Man: I hear ya. Reading makes me sleepy.

But he hadn’t heard her at all. Book reading was really no choice for the man, for he obviously had no desire to do it. But she had, and so there was regret. She wasn’t being dismissive of book reading. She was commenting on her own failure of discipline, not the lack of value in the enterprise. He perhaps thought that his comment had generated solidarity with her, but what he had more likely done is open up a chasm between them about what is valuable in life.

But then again, what do I know?

Maybe when I left the garage sale, they exchanged phone numbers and spent the evening making love in a bookless apartment.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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