Archive for October, 2012

Escape From Reality

I can’t remember when I first became addicted to books. I am sure it was something light, though, with a little gold spine to catch my innocent eyes. (Either that, or a colorful collection of rhymes by that notorious pusher of literature, Dr. Seuss.) It is fruitless to speculate. The first book that hooked me is unimportant, as the reality of my problem remains.

I feel I can safely blame my father for my voracious reading habits. While my mother would sometimes read me a bedtime story, my father was the real reader of the house. Every evening he would crack open a book and disconnect for an hour or so. Sometimes he would even sneak a paperback into the bathroom with him. (I assume this was to keep the extent of his habit a secret.) The house was littered with books of all sizes and content. He even had the audacity to keep a collection of his previous reading material on a bookshelf in his study.

I was surprised my mother never said a word. Maybe she was too busy, what with being left with all of the housework, seeing as my father had his nose fastened to a book. Or maybe she felt books were preferable to say, football or golf. Whatever the reason, though, I learned to read from my father’s knee. No one ever stopped me. I can even remember my father’s pleased grins, as he would find me huddled under blankets with a book. Maybe he, too, felt an affection for books was preferable to the myriad of other addictive hobbies, such as (God forbid) philately.

Whatever the case, this lack of action had dire effects. Before I even reached middle-school I was a book junkie. My parents supported my habits with periodical purchases from book fairs and used-book stores. My father was more than willing to share some of his more accessible cast-offs. Soon, I was reading in the bathroom as well. My room became littered with magazines, scrawled copies of lyrics from my favorite bands, and paperback upon paperback. Still, my parents did nothing.

My already insatiable lust for new reading material received a boost after the divorce of my parents. Wishing to escape from reality, I dove headfirst into any and all books at my disposal. There, I could forget about the painful truths of the world. I could live another life and share in a different story. Even if these stories held no happy endings, they still ended well. As for the crushing disappointment after those endings, well, needless to say, the only cure was another story. At the height of my escape, I was reading two, three, four books a week. When I ran out of new books, I would start all over again with the old ones. It was a vicious cycle.

Even years later, this cycle has yet to end, though it has certainly slowed down. Reality, the bastard that it is, takes precedence over fiction. Keeping a roof over my head while maintaining some semblance of a social life eats away at my free time. Now, I am only able to read a book or so a week, depending on the length. I still get jittery when I don’t have a book to read, though, so chances are I have a few to choose from. They litter my tables, and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

They are a salve. They keep me sane, if not exactly happy. They are my favorite drug.

Given the chance, I would check out of this mediocre existence, and read for the rest of my life. Being lost in books is infinitely more enjoyable than being lost in reality. Maybe it is my lack of creativity, or my innate fatalism that makes Fantasy and Science Fiction preferable to any life I could possibly lead, but either way the situation holds true – give me make-believe over this puerile existence any day. I sometimes wonder if this is how heroin junkies feel. If I could mainline the feeling that a good book gives provides, I’d do it in a heartbeat. It may be my father’s fault for setting my on this path, but I thank him for it. Without my beloved stories to distract my attention, I would have written a tragedy ages ago.

So yes, it is an addiction, a pathetic escape from reality, but one I am grateful for.

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Clumsy

Once, there was a child born to be clumsy. In the womb, she was twisted and tried to birth backwards. Once free, she could barely find the rhythm to start her own lungs. So, she spent the first day of her life confined in a box, her movements sluggish and awkward for all to see. Eventually she was allowed to be taken home, where, under the watchful eyes of her parents, she learned to crawl, though later than most. Her halfhearted explorations taught her to fear sharp edges and sudden drops. Yet, when she learned to walk, she continued to collide with the world around her.

She became a mass of constant bruises. Her body would let her do nothing else. Stumbling through her small world, she learned the pain of broken bones and the shame of broken trinkets. When she learned to speak, even her words bludgeoned those listening. Her handwriting was no better. It wavered and scuttled across blank pages, just like the hand that held the pencil.

As she grew older, this child learned to tiptoe through life, to move slowly and with reservation. She grew taller, and learned to never reach farther than arm’s length, lest she lose her balance. With other people, she soon knew to keep her distance. Her edges were blunt, but no less dangerous to the unsuspecting for being so.

She didn’t always succeed in this, however. She both feared and desired this failure. She was often so lonely. It was this loneliness that clouded her vision, until her steps inevitably lead her to bumble into some poor soul.

The collisions always left both parties dazed, and the extrication of life and limb was also most painful. Many hearts were left battered and bleeding in her path. Her own contusions she could ignore and forgive, but those caused to others left her reeling with shame. At times, she felt she should come with a warning to all that would venture near. At others, she wished to scream at those turned in her direction to flee while they still had time. She feared her words, though, just as she feared her movements.

She was aware that words could wound as surely as a stone, that they could trip as easily as an ill-placed stick. Often enough she had positioned herself poorly, and received a rain of hard words for her troubles. So, she kept her mouth sealed tight, and cowered from the criticisms of others. She hid behind screens and tapped haphazardly on keys, hoping to soften her sentences while avoiding direct blows aimed in her direction. How she tottered, though, whenever her protections proved faulty. . .

One would think after so many years of bruises, breaks, and stumbles that she would be immune to most pain. Surely a callous would have grown to protect her from herself.

I never have gotten any less sensitive, though.

Every misstep is still an embarrassment, and every impact an agony. And, after so many repairs, my ego is a fragile thing. I cradle it delicately lest it shatter. I’d guard it jealously, but I know how foolhardy that would be.

I am clumsy. I make mistakes. I am not above reproof.

I just wish by now I’d learned to grow a thicker skin.