An Open Letter to My Alter Ego: My Bookshelf

Dear Bookshelf,

I’ve stewed over this a long while and it’s time we had a talk. You’ve been in my life for a few years now. You’ve glimpsed some of the books that have come and gone, but here we are: me, on the couch, and you, across the room, staring out the window. Not listening, as usual.

Maybe I’m partially responsible for this impasse, but my friends say otherwise. Still. I wonder, if I had shelved my favorites among yours instead of secreting them under blankets, between couch cushions, and in my ear buds, might it never have come to this? The seams of my backpack continue to bulge with the paperbacks I’ve kept from you. You might have come to know me better if only I had shared, but the distance between you, my bedside, and my coffee table grew too fast. Too deep.

Anyway I suspect you have no favorites to share back; that you carry books around to prove something. You’ve always sought to gather austerity from others like so many dry rosebuds and you go too far to prove your academic background. You aren’t kidding anyone with those Hindi and Italian textbooks. All you got out of those courses was a pity C and the word mangiare, respectively. You can’t choose to learn a language solely because you enjoy the regional food and then act holier than thou about your linguistic athleticism. I know a thing or two about language. Have you read Embassytown? No. You haven’t. Because it’s stored in my Scribd library.

You try so hard to be irreverent, but we’ve all clocked those pathetic reference manuals squeezed between the fiction. You must think the noisy Adverbs cover a clever ruse. It’s not. And before you adjust your spectacles and reference Dante and The Divine Comedy to undermine me and call me a plebeian…we both know you’re as clueless about those books as that day before the ninth grade when you thanked the LORD that your English teacher finally put a humor novel on the summer reading list. Speaking of spectacles–

You used to take care of yourself. Always polished and fresh. Tidy rows tidy. Now you’re comfortable, set up in my apartment like a king, and it’s as if you don’t care anymore. You let everything go to seed: books falling off shelves, piled high, On Writing shoved up against Sew U. Aren’t you ashamed? You tell me your books are foxed by voracious reading habits, but what book wouldn’t get ruffled, crammed up against their brethren like that? It’s been years since you looked any way but disheveled. I keep saying to myself, “Things are going to change.” Well, I checked the new IKEA catalog–they never do.

I’m telling you this now (even as I fantasize about loaning out your books for spite’s sake and give that Urban Spaces bookshelf the eye) because we’ll always have the top shelf–we’ll always have the Harry Potter series and the vintage picture books. You know I wouldn’t separate you from the children’s books, but I want you to know they’re not happy either. They have delicate bindings and thin skins and you’re as reckless with them as you are with the others.

Anyway. Do what you will with this confession. But I’m thinking of moving, and I haven’t decided if you’ll be on that truck.

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