Dirty Pages

by James

I like to buy used books. I have not always felt this way. When I was younger, I wanted new, pristine books, ones no one had ever touched. No highlighted passages, no dog ears on the corners of the pages, no stains from food or drink. These perceived “imperfections” at the time offended me because of my respect and love for books. I wanted the book to be mine and mine alone.

Now that I am older and have lived more of life, I feel just the opposite. A highlighted passage from a previous reader might make me look deeper for an important meaning because it made a difference to them. I see a drink stain and can’t help but wonder what it was – coffee or Jack & Coke? I love Jack & Coke. I have even done the scratch and sniff test to try and determine the source. Remember those silly stickers from back in the day?

My copy of a collection of short stories called “Magic Terror” carries a stamp from a used book store in Australia. Wow, how cool is that? How many miles has this book traveled? Where has it been? I wish it could talk and tell me all of its adventures. A story told by a story.

Sometimes I get so distracted thinking about the people that read a book before me, I lose track of the story and have to back-track. A cop, teacher, lawyer, housewife? Somebody like me who has a lot of trouble sleeping and turns to books to get them through the night? Maybe someone, who also like me, falls in love with a book and can’t put it down (I have called in sick to work so I could finish a book).

When I am looking for a certain title, I almost always buy the more worn copy. Much like lines on an older person’s face, the “dirty pages” tell a story. Sometimes you just have to make up your own.

August 1, 2013

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