When I was a child (perhaps 8 at most) I was sitting in the living room of our then house playing* while my dad was watching a film set in what must have been Victorian times. I was slipping in and out of attention to it, as kids do, but I remember being struck by a scene in which a dashing gentleman asked an aging dignitary if he could have his daughter’s hand.
“Why does he want a hand?”
“It means he wants to marry that man’s daughter,” replied my dad.
“Oh. Why is he asking? Why doesn’t he just marry her?”
“It’s traditional to get a daddy’s permission** before a man asks a lady to marry him.”
“Oh. Does that mean if a man wants to marry me, he needs to ask you for my hand?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I’ll make him take the rest of you as well.”
Thus began a list of stipulations in my young mind about what my future paramour would have to do before I would agree to wed him. Obviously, as was proper, he would have to seek and gain my father’s approval and permission. I have always trusted my father would never sanction any man he deemed unfit to be my husband. As I grew up I began to understand that this was an out-dated, actually rather un-feminist tradition based more on the idea of passing property and status than a girl’s happiness, but my heart clung to it. For me, if the man who had raised me and protected me, and loved me without condition, gave his go-ahead, I felt I really must be in safe hands. And so it has remained an important part of any proposal, and I have let all possible suitors*** know this.
I have always reserved the right to say ‘try again’ if he lacked the courtesy of getting down on one knee. I mean… right?
Lastly, a speech. It didn’t have to be saccharine or long, just sincere and conveying the reasons why marriage (and marriage to me in particular) is an important step he is now ready to take. And why he thinks I should be ready to take it to.
Just three non-optional stipulations a man had to overcome to ‘win my hand’^. In a book I love, a character tells her partner, in no uncertain terms, that before he can ask to marry her, he must achieve three great deeds. I would much rather fight the dragons and walk the darkness with the man I love rather than have him do it for me, but I consider these three stipulations rather like the ‘great deeds’ a man must complete to earn his right to get a ‘yes’. Maybe not a feminist or modern-age way of doing these things, but hey-ho, there you go.
Of course, outside of those mandatory stipulations, I harbored hopes about how a man would propose to me. I wanted to be surprised, and swept of my feet. I wanted it to be perfect for us. I wanted special and magic and beautiful.
And then it happened.
I expected so much to happen when I was proposed to; I believed it would be important, where and when and how it happened; the speech, the candles and flowers, the ring^^, and romance. Really though, as soon as the question is out and around you, the only significant factor of a proposal: the person.
The truth is in the quiet moment that follows, when your heart jumps and then stops, when your voices catches in your breath, the place and time fade into the background, until you’re left with a human being kneeling before you waiting on one word.
Here before me was a person who had walked into my life just over two years ago, and started adding stuff, like magic and adventure and laughter and swords^^^, and all the really important stuff, like support and fun and generosity and courage and acceptance and kindness. And understanding. He just seemed to get all the less admirable qualities in me – all the bad anxiety days when I would withdraw, or cry, or find nothing good in myself or sometimes even the world. And he would come and hold me, or just be still and silent with me, or remind me why I have value and show me just a smidgen^* of the beauty in other people and the world. He can just make me laugh, no matter what mood I’m in; I can be drenched in my own tears and snot, or so worried my heart is beating too fast and he will say or do something which forces me to smile. I really am not sure how; I believe it’s just a wonderful aspect of who he is.
Here before me was my partner. Someone who had stood beside me during the dark days of both our lives. Someone who was always honest about our relationship, about our future and about his past. Someone who both trusted me with his broken bits and could be trusted with mine. Whenever some difficultly arises in our relationship, I always know I can speak honestly about it, when I am calm and ready, and be listened to and valued, and I have been amazed at how my comments are met with genuine understanding, and an active effort to better the problem which is instant and consistent. I see him making the effort to create lasting harmony between us, and I am always grateful for someone who believes in us enough to do so.
I saw this person who had been so easy to love from the beginning, the process of which had been as wonderful and as simple as stepping out into a beautiful morning, in the honey glow of a summer day, colours so much more vivid. Everything about is had been gentle and private – our meeting, our first kiss, our goodbyes and reunions, and all the little everyday adventures, going on holiday, making dinner, talking well past bed time about everything from the NFL to books and writing. Whatever we did was better because we were together. That’s all we needed. Just us.
It was no different when it came to the proposal. On an ordinary morning on May 28th*^, as gentle as as simple as all our engagements, Chris decided to ask if I would marry him, and that was all that mattered.
Did I want to be with this person for the rest of my life?
No. Not just the rest of my life.
A lifetime wasn’t nearly long enough. Forever could never be long enough to love and be with him.
So, I said yes.
*Probably Barbie was rescuing my little pony figures from the peril of my sister’s action man villains. Or possibly they were hosting a party with the villains. I can’t remember exactly.
**And I remember being extremely proud of myself that I knew what that meant.
***Two. There have only ever been two serious suitors who might ask for my hand in marriage, and one of them, I am pretty sure, would have received a resounding ‘no’ when he asked my father.
^And the rest of me too.
^^The ring, just by the way, genuinely struck me as incredible. Chris, all credit to him, managed, by himself, to venture into the jungle of engagement rings and strike gold. Now, I must admit here, I doubted him. Just a little. Simply because he is a man with little care to artistic design. Yet, I don’t think I could have chosen a better ring myself. So, bravo, Chris, bravo. I shall never doubt your jewellery picking ability again. But also, now you have no excuse for not buying me jewellery. …. I get to squeal about the ring.
^^^Both metaphorically and actual. There is a real sword in our living room, which has become the point of focus for many guests, and which sometimes I remove carefully and use to duel the powers of darkness while riding my imaginary dragon. I always win.
^*There’s a word I don’t think we as a society use enough ‘smidgen’ – say it lots. It’s kinda fun.
*^Yep, it’s taken me that long to get this post written. No sign of those Winchester blogs I promised yet either. It’s a wonder I have any hypothetical audience at all.
My friend has the most comfortable temporary bed I have ever slept on, and given some of the camp-beds, air-beds and sofa beds I have used in my time, that is saying something. My sister has a sofa bed which I swear was once a medieval torture devise*. After a restless night, trying to find a comfortable position around the lumps of the feet, it is not uncommon to awaken with your shoulder where your neck should be, or indeed even a knee where your neck should be. Suffice to say, having slipped easily into sleep and remained there all night without trouble, my friend’s temporary bed is the kind I imagine god has his angels sleep on when they come over for late night universe discussion**.
However, it did occur to me that this particular sofa-bed has a slight advantage in that my sleeping habits have improved greatly over the last few years***. They were less habitual during my University days and didn’t improve much for some years afterwards. Somehow, if you can believe, somewhere over the last two years or so, I became what is known as an ‘early riser’^.
Yes, I too used to believe these people were either insane or taking some magical morning pill sold in shady corners of impoverished neighborhoods. When I had to, I could struggle up at 7:00 to be somewhere necessary for 9:00, but I was never happy about it, yet I knew people who could hop up from their beds at 6:30 with all the relish and cheeriness of a Disney princess. Part of me envied these freaks of nature, and another part simply took them for unicorns. Either way, being able to rise from bed early and happily did not feel possible in my case.
That was, of course, until a few years ago when I found myself agreeing to a job which required me to be ready and raring no later than 6:00am. To many people, including myself today, this is not actually an early start as early starts go. My father has woken at this time practically every working day of his life. What you must understand is that for myself, who had never thought 6:00am a decent time for anything (save perhaps getting to an airport) this was indeed a notion which invited horror. Yet, it had to be done, and thus I wearily set an alarm, tried to go to bed early, and failed miserably to get much sleep at all.
I just didn’t understand how anyone could do this everyday without oceans of caffeine^^.Each morning (particularly the dark, cold morns of mid-winter), I would fall gracelessly from my bed, eyes heavy and mind slurred, and topple into the bathroom, squinting against the sudden light. My movements were sloth like at best. At 6:40, I would clamber out into the morning, usually finally roused from utter dreariness by the snap of chill air. On route there would be dog walkers whistling merrily, joggers, and one particularly perky elderly gentlemen who was always on his way back^^^ from collecting the daily paper. They all appeared so alive, while I sometimes convinced myself I was wondering the world as a ghostly presence.
Nowadays, though, I too have become an ‘early riser’. By that I mean, not only do I wake at a certain time everyday (5:30am^*), but can now do so without scorn or painful eyes. In fact, in these last few months I have actually enjoyed doing so. Yes, actually, ‘enjoy’. Really.
Getting up early means you can get a lot done before anyone else is even awake, and that is a feeling of accomplishment which cannot be beaten. Knowing that the world is snoozing while you are sending off emails and ticking off items on a long to-do list is fantastic. I can now complete a morning routine (including work-out and shower) with time to spare, and on really good days, most of my to-do list is checked off before breakfast. Hard to believe, I know, but there we have it. At some point, almost without notice, I made amends with mornings. It leaves me both gleeful and, at odd times, resentful of myself, much like I was of those joyful joggers of the frigid winters.
I always considered myself a dusk person rather than a dawn, but it seems the two are not mutually exclusive. Now I believe they are two times of day particular for certain activities and feelings. Dusk is for relaxing, creativity and contemplation, moving into the peaceful, solitary hours of early night, where my heart has always found tranquility. Mornings, I see now, also have a purpose. Dawn is for energy and productiveness, and can offer just as many peaceful hours, but for reasons of gathering ones thoughts for the day, and setting the day in the right direction. Perhaps maturity has allowed me to see the value in a time of day I usually overlooked.
Even on weekends, I find actually waking early has a certain glee to it. Take for instance my stay on the aforementioned heavenly sofa-bed. My friend and I had the customary late night as is our way, and yet I still woke refreshed and raring, alarm free at about 6:30. I yawned languidly, read my book, dressed, replaced the sofa-bed and sat on the swivel chair to read further until my hostess with the mostess appeared to prepare breakfast. You see what I mean? Morning hours are great for more time doing pleasant things, like reading and thinking and stretching. Still not sure on the jogging though. It never seems a great time to just go jog.
Yet, who knows? Perhaps given enough time, I’ll suddenly get the urge to don a pair of expensive running shoes*^, and haul ass around the neighborhood avoiding pedestrians and dogs in minus-degree temperatures. For now, I’ll just enjoy the experiences of being an early riser.
*I know many people use that simile, but this really is. Honestly. I think I even had a dream while residing in its painful clutches that I was being harassed by people trying to extract information from me for King Henry VIII. And I wanted to give them information. I just didn’t know what it was.
**Which is something I imagine any god would do, you understand. Perhaps there is even a DDR competition and charades. I don’t claim to know the master workings of the Universe, but it’s fun to contemplate the matter. Perhaps, when this mortal coil of mine has been shrugged away, I will see the behind the scenes footage, though I doubt it will be anywhere as ordinary and human as I have described. I hope not anyway.
***And at no point has it been cursed to create a thousand years of torment by a disgruntled witch, which may be the case with my sister’s sofa-bed.
^The term ‘early riser’ always sounded too cutesy-wootsy to me, like something from a children’s cartoon. ‘Down in the land of the early risers’. Yet, I lack a better term, so there you go.
^^Given I cannot stomach coffee, this was not an option for me. I did more than once consider intravenous caffeine, but I lacked the street smarts to know where to find such things, if such things exist.
^^^You undertstand, back? As in, he had already risen from bed, walked to collect his paper and was now returning to his abode. Meaning either he was up at least half an hour before I was or he was incredibly quick. Or, a less realistic notion, he invented a formula which stopped the body’s need for sleep, and thus no longer went to bed at all. Those are the only possible reasons. What do you mean I haven’t considered other factors? Be gone with you, Sir.
^*In the last few weeks this has become 5:00am.
*^Have you seen the price of some of these trainers? It’s ridiculous. I saw one pair once with ‘bounce technology’. What the heck is ‘bounce technology’? A mattress and a trampoline should have ‘bounce technology’, not a pair of shoes. Not that it mattered because these shoes cost about as much as either of those things. They were over £100. Unless they possessed the ability to defy gravity, and came with an installed cup-holder, I’m not interested. If you need that much bounce, dear jogger, jog on a trampoline.
Back in the Autumn of 2013, which feels an age and a day ago now, I wasn’t doing so well within myself. On the job front, I was having a better time than I had been the previous year, being finally out of retail, and part-timing as a writer and child-minder, but I was making little money from either. On the personal front, I had recently broken-up from a whirlwind romance, which had been off-again on-again since spring. The experience was something few people actually knew about, and fewer still knew the whole story*. Truth be told, I had been saddened and a little embarrassed by the whole affair, and even though I was happy it had come to a conclusion, I was starting to feel disheveled about ever finding a person with which to spend my life.
My dour mood stayed with me for a while. I was still living on a pittance, keeping my head above water, and living with the rag-tag group of characters at the Buddhist centre. Nearer Christmas, I started to feel better. I had a trip organised to see my parents in the majestic land of the Swiss, accompanied by my long-time best friend for the New Year, and my work now included tending to the care of an adorable 9-month old who lived on the same street**. All this kept my mind away from relationships, and all the complicated mush associated with them. I was trying to figure out how to be me.
Just before New Year I was given the news via text message that I was being asked to leave the Buddhist centre over spacing issues. If there’s anything which is going to help you figure out who you are, it’s being thrust into the unknown with no money, no close friends living in the same city as you, and enough emotional baggage to fill the cargo of a Boeing 747.
There’s a person you’ll have to grow into before you meet the person you’re meant to be with. At that dark, transitional time, I wasn’t yet who I needed to be for the universe to deem me ready to meet Chris.
I was a penniless writer-come childminder living in the city, and he was a recently recruited officer cadet living in digs in a riverside town about an hour away. We were so close, but so far. I was single, but he had a recent girlfriend. Our destined meeting was to happen in just a few months, but I didn’t know that then. I was still just hoping that someday it would happen. Just hoping one day I would be enough.
There came a particularly difficult day; January 21st 2016***, a wet, cold excuse for a day, which had been a barrel of chaos in almost all areas. At work I had been told my pay was to deplete, a message had come through reminding me of my impending need to find new accommodation, my shoes were leaking, everyone I called was otherwise engaged^, and my family were at regular blow-outs.
On route home, on the long street which ran between where I got of the bus and where I lived, I hit my lowest moment. A loose slat caught my foot and set me tumbling down into a puddle, causing me to both slam my knee so hard tears weld-up, and get coated in a nice sheen of rain soaked street grime. If there was ever a metaphor for how I felt my life was going in any given moment, that incident was it. I remained where I was while my throbbing knee recovered, crying because I had fallen and because I felt my life was falling; because I was covered in mud and because I felt like mud.
And in that moment I wanted someone to be waiting for me; someone who would know me enough that they knew I was going to get up from that puddle, even with a busted knee and tear soaked eyes, and limp my way home if I had to. Just like I had always done when vicious plot twists wrangled themselves into my story. I knew I would do it alone, but I wanted someone who knew me to not let me get through it alone^^.
74 days remained before I would discover who that someone waiting was, but I didn’t know that, kneeling there on that pavement, wet and cold and in pain. I didn’t know who he was or where he was or what he was doing or when he was going to walk into my world.
If I had known, I wouldn’t have wept in the dirt. Here’s what I would have done.
I would have dusted myself off, and stood up, and carried on down that road, past my abode at the Buddhist Centre to the train station positioned just a few streets behind. I would have purchased a ticket for Totnes and taken the first available train to the station there. Once there, I would have waited patiently in the rain, maybe for as long as an hour, in the dark and cold, for the next bus service to Dartmouth. There I would alight, and start running.
I would run from the bottom of the town along the river edge, and take on the steep hill leading to the majestic building which sits at the top, behind a set of ornate gates, monogrammed with a seafaring logo. The guards at the gate house wouldn’t keep me out either^^^. I would bound over the barrier between us, through the parade grounds, and into the building, and I would head to the zoo*^ where he was living at the time, along with the rest of the guys in his division. But even if they were there, I wouldn’t stop. I’d find him in the mess of maleness^*, and I would get his attention, gently saying his name, and I would look at him.
I would look into his washed out green eyes for the first of what would be many times, knowing he was doing the same thing. And I would say this:
Hey Sweets. Sorry. Chris at the moment. That nickname won’t mean anything yet.
In 74 days, you’re going to meet me. I imagine the idea of that is horrifying right now, given I look like I swam here through a dike using my knee as a flotation device, but I promise I’m usually groomed, with joints of a regular size. Truth is I had a really bad day, just a stupendously bad day in the middle of a stupendously bad few months, and I just wanted to see you, because soon you’ll be who I turn to on all my bad days. And I know I don’t have that long to wait, but I want you now. I want us to be us now.
I know I have a little bit more to learn before I can be with you, so I’ll leave in a minute, and wait until the Universe really brings us together. I mean, right now you have a girlfriend, and I have issues up the wazoo, so I think we both have some aspects of our lives which need to play out. Particularly the girlfriend thing, who by the way, has more issues than me. But our meeting is coming; that amazing day is just a few months from now. And the odd thing is, it’s going to be just as average as any other day. But we’re going to meet, and that will make it one of the most incredible days of both our lives. Because two years later, we’ll still be together, living together, fighting all the bad days together, and sharing all the best days.
74 days doesn’t sound like much, but when it’s the gap between you and I, it still feels like an eternity. Because I don’t want to have to wait to be with you. I want to be with you now; I want to know you and laugh with you and love you now. And I know you want that too. I do, because I am going to know you. Soon.
You’re going to know me, and I’m going to know you – but not like anyone else. We’re going to know each other in that deep, everything kind of way. Not just the little things like favourite food and what make’s us laugh, but the dark, scary, messy stuff, like the worst thing you ever did, and all the little broken bits inside.
And man are we going to love each other. So much. Just so much, that if I start trying to describe it to you here and now it’ll all come out as cliched rubbish. Not to mention all your oppos here will probably make fun of you the moment I leave. Well I suppose they will anyway – I mean I just burst in here from the street, crazy Jane no-body, desperate to meet the man she knows she’ll marry. Let’s face it, they’re going to give you stick. I’m sorry about that. But I may as well keep going now, huh?
I love you. Some part of me has always done so, even when it was just the idea of you. I always knew you were somewhere, and I always loved you, and I love you now. In 74 days, you’ll see.
That’s when our story is going to begin, in a coffee shop, on an otherwise ordinary, rainy morning. I know this all seems wildly unlikely; two people just finding each other one day, but we will.
We’re going to know each other. And we’re going to love each other. And it’s going to be the adventure of a lifetime, a story we write and share. Fighting the monsters together, taming dragons, exploring foreign places, searching for buried treasure, changing the rules, breaking the rules, paining futures in the clear night skies, ducking for cover when the storm hits, kissing in the rain. The whole 9-yards and then some.
You and me. That’s all we’ll need.
Anyway, I better go now, because you’re probably going to get some phone call from your crazy soon to be ex-girlfriend, demanding attention and raving over something small you forgot to do, and I’m almost certainly about to be thrown to the ground and arrested for running in here uninvited, but it’s been worth it just to see you when I feel like the world is against me. I can fight the world with you, Chris.
See you in 74 days. Wait for me, alright?
But, I couldn’t do that. I didn’t know about that seemingly ordinary morning in April just around the corner. I didn’t know about Chris, or his smile, or his way of making me smile even when I’m crying. I didn’t know how much I was about to love someone just for being the person they are. I didn’t know any of it. I was just a girl in a puddle.
So, I lifted myself off that pavement, and I took a long breath, and I hobbled home alone.
*This can be attributed to my young-adult make-something-of-myself appear-perfect pride problem. It’s not such an issue anymore, but it bubbles to the surface every now and then, which is why even after the cooling effects of time, I’m still not liable to speak of that spring/summer relationship in any concrete detail. Maybe one day though. I’ma workin’ on it.
**As of the time this is posted she will be three, which I think makes me 1263538-years-old.
***I’m not 100% sure on the exact date, but I am certain it was a Tuesday, because Domino’s had the special two-for-Tuesday running as I walked past. There’s a chance it was the following Tuesday, but I needed a solid date for dramatic effect. Let’s call it creative license.
^ I mean in terms of being able to answer the phone; at the time, I don’t think any of my close friends actually had a ring on it, save two who had wed the previous September.Rest assured though, if my life were a sitcom, at the time, probably everyone of note in my circle of allies would have been neatly paired off.
^^ That should not be taken as a discredit to any of the wonderful people I had in my life at the time. Guys, it was a really rough day, and as stated above my tries at communication failed.
^^^They jolly well would. I imagine outside the realms of this hypothetical land where I am able to know the future, the most I would get here is a face-full of gravel as I am tackled mercilessly to the ground for trespassing, but in the mood I was in that day, I reckon I would have made it further than on any other day. Not that I would jump gates and barriers at major military training facilities, nor recommend doing so. Let’s face it, I would hardly do well in prison.
*^ From what I understand, ‘the zoo’ is the initial dorm area where the cadets bunk together for the first period of their training, before moving to more private pastures later. They are the only animals in it, as far as I am able to discern.
^*Fun side-note here concerning messy maleness (all PG I assure you). I once visited a ship as a guest while most of the occupants were on shore leave. Chris took me aboard in the early days of our relationship as a quirky date/see where I work kinda deal. There were a few sailors still milling around. When Chris took me to see where he and other cadets slept, I was astonished to discover no one was much dressed, and none at all above the waist. One guy was changing when we stumbled past him (I saw nothing), and another was ironing in his boxers. I never did find out if Chris had mentioned to anyone that I would be stopping by, but he certainly didn’t warn me of the very very casual dress code.
— In the end my knee was fine, just very bruised and a bit swollen for a day or two. I used one of the monks’ frozen veg packs to aid the recovery when I got home. Actually, thinking on it, I’m not sure I ever told him I had done so. O_0′ Wonder how karma will get me for that error. I did live without a freezer for a year, so maybe it already has.
So, due to the library closure post being priority last week, I didn’t get around to mentioning that Chris returned from his latest ventures upon the ocean blue*. I met him at the train station, and so I was able to prepare him for the influx of books I had purchased during our long separation**. Partly because I wanted to ensure he knew I hadn’t been spending money frivolously*** for four months, when I know we’re saving for future expenditures. Mostly, though, I wanted to alert him to the shelf crisis. In his absence^ I have managed to fill all the available space on my bookshelves, and am having to get creative with stacking. Even this is now pushing the capacity of the shelves.
This is where Chris and I differ slightly in our solutions. For me this simply means buy another shelf to house more books. Then you buy more books to fill the shelves, and then more shelves for the books and on ad infinitum^^ until we just live in a library, which, as far as I am concerned, is the dream. Chris’ less wonderful answer is for me to get rid of books^^^. My exact answer was: “No. Shelves or divorce?”
In any case, the subject came up again a few times over the five days he was around. My sister was also around for a visit during the week, so we were focused mainly on enjoying the hours I wasn’t at work. Hol and I hadn’t been in person together for a while, since she lives in Switzerland with my parents, and the closest we can get barring expensive air travel is Skype. Recently, I put her onto reading a web-comic I became obsessed with*^ and in an attempt to support the artist and enjoy the story offline, I purchased the published volume from Amazon.
Only to discover I had accidentally acquired an Italian version^*. Le sigh.
It’s not so bad right. Return the Italian version, and purchase another in English when the amount is refunded. Except, when I searched Amazon for a replacement I could read without Rosetta Stone, I found only soft-back editions were available in English. Usually, I prefer paper-backs, but this book is in itself a piece of art, and I’m not sure if the paper-back comes with all the extras. While it did occur to me to undertake learning Italian to navigate around the problem, and keep my beautiful hardback copy, it was suggested to me this might be unnecessary… and the stupidest reason to pay for second language lessons ever*^*.
When I showed the book to Chris, wearing my sad face, he pointed out I should wait for the return to come through before buying another one. I think this is because he worried I would actually keep the Italian version anyway, therefore adding to the too many books issue. He might have been right. I mean, that way I get a hardback edition and a paper-back edition, and I could maybe find a better excuse to learn Italian some point in the future. Besides, graphic novels are much thinner than conventional novel paperbacks, so they wouldn’t take up sooo much room.
I think it was at this point, or at least soon afterwards, that my to-read shelf came up for discussion. One of my lower shelves on the second bookcase is used to store books I have purchased and not yet read. Apparently, this is a space-consuming and inefficient means of book-reading, at least with so many**^. I guess he has a point, not a good one, but a point. I know readers who buy by need; they finish one book and then buy the next one. My trouble is I have a tendancy to read everywhere and anytime- at work, in the bath, on the bus, while waiting for appointments, when I should be sleeping, more than once when holding deep conversation, when I’m eating dinner. Really anywhere that allows a free hand so I can hold the book^^*. And when you read that way, you may suddenly require a new book at inopportune times, when the books shops are closed*^*^ or far away, and ordering from Amazon will still take a day for delivery. I stock my shelf in preparation; I suppose all I’m really guilty of is over-preparedness. Le sigh.
When I was pouting about my Italian book, Chris pointed out I had a whole shelf of unread books to get through before I needed to worry about another one coming in. “That’s different,” I said, “I was looking forward to reading through it, because I was in the mood for that book.”
C: “But you read it online?”
Me: “Your point?”
C: “Um…. that you already read it, and you can read it again any time you want.”
Me: “Your point?”
C: “Is that you can read it without the book.”
Me: “But I want to read the book version.”
C: “It’s the same!”
Me: “But I want to feel the pages, and look at the pretty art up close. Not on a screen.”
C: “… You have a problem.”
Me: “I went to the original site, but the shipping to the UK is almost as much as the book…. Can I have £50 so I can buy it from the main site?”^*^*
C: “-_-… You have a whole to-read shelf, all those books. Maybe if you finish them, I’ll buy you the bootlegging cats book.”
You would think after nearly two years together, Chris would know better than to make nonchalant comments about buying me books. Particularly expensive ones from the US. I turned, my smile Cheshire cat like, pondering the power Chris had just given me, and how to play the outcome right.
“So, if I finish all the books on my to-read shelf, you will buy me the book from the main site?”
C: “Yes, but that won’t happen, coz you’ll buy more.”
Me: “But what if I don’t buy more? What if I finish the to-read shelf without buying any more books to add to it.”
C: “Then I’ll buy you the book.”
Me: “Why? What’s the catch? What are you up to? This is not serious. You’re not serious. Are you?”
C: “Yep. But you can’t buy anymore books until you finish all those.”
Me: “Okay, but I want the second volume too. And the art-book and the playing cards when they come out.” *^^*
C: “Fine. But every book. And if you buy books, they count. The shelf has to be empty.”
Me: “O_o….. 8) Gauntlet picked up”.
My sister witnessed this agreement, so Chris, not that he would, can’t wiggle free when I complete the task,
However, when I counted up the stack, I realised Chris has a good amount of time to save up for my expensive prize. That’s just the books I own; if you add the library books I currently have waiting to be read, it could be a substantial amount of time before I see any returns on my investment. Plus, I have pre-ordered sequels due to arrive on their publication dates, and some of the stack are the first installments to series, which I may want to continue immediately. No wonder Chris was so sure. I think he knows at some point for some reason I’m going to end up adding to that pile, especially with a Waterstone’s gift card now burning a hole in my pocket. He might be right, I do have a problem. I’m like a smoker trying to quit.
There are benefits to this challenge however; the to-read pile is getting to the point where I’m not even sure what’s on it anymore. There are some books which I’ve had for years, and just never got around to reading because newer more exciting releases took precidence. Many are from the 4 for 99p deals at a local charity shop which I used to splurge on during my poor days; I only got them to make up the number needed for the deal^**^. There are all sorts of genres and styles to choose from, and a verity of publication dates, some as recent as a week ago, others classics. There’s enough to satisfy whatever mood I’m in. Theoretically anyway.
I don’t really have an excuse(*).
So, here we go. Bargain struck, challenge accepted, conditions laid down. No more buying books I haven’t read until I finish the ones I have.
This bargain was actually struck on the 15th March 2016, but I elected to post it now so the library closure post could take precedence (and so I had some editing time). I’m actually already two books down. I’ll keep you updated on my progress, you know, if I don’t fail miserably by next week. *gulp again*.
*Come to think of it, I’m not sure I actually mentioned he left again. I’m not certain I even alluded to his departure, which took place back in November. Two weeks after his return, because the Navy loves me like that. Anyway, he came back earlier this month and is now based a lot closer, at least for a little while. Unless the Navy decides it loves me again, and shows its great admiration for me by sending Chris on an important mission in the middle of Timbuktu, to, you know, keep an eye on the salt trade or something.
**Although, if he didn’t predict this occurrence in one way or another I’m not sure he knows me too well. How else am I to fill the void in my soul during his deployments? And the shelves and stuff?
***I mean as much as spending excess income on books can be ‘frivolous’, which in my opinion is never. And I know relationships require sacrifices…. just not books.
^ ie. His voice in my ear banishing the book-buying-fairy who sits on my shoulder and convinces me that ‘just one more won’t hurt. You’ll like this one. All the cool kids are reading it.’
^^Full disclosure: I could not for the life of me remember this term, and when I turned to Google for help it basically spat at me. Not actual saliva, you understand, just really unhelpful answers. It tried to refer me to the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art when I typed in what I thought was a close rendition of the Latin phrase. In the end I had to text Chris for the answer, because he knows this stuff. Chris is the new Google. Tell your friends.
^^^ -_- Feel free to jeer at the screen fellow bibliophiles. Hoarding is not good for anyone… unless you hoard books, then you’re that cool person who lives, eats and sleeps in a library.
*^ If you enjoy booze smuggling, prohibition era cats you should check it out too.
^*Usually I find nice surprises when I buy books online. When I bought a copy of Leviathan a few years back, I was delighted to discover I had been sent a rare cover edition. Another time, I purchased a used copy listed as ‘not bad’ (for 1p!) to be sent a copy which looked new, and once I even managed to buy a book in store to get home and discover the edition was signed by the author. My luck has been dwindling lately, though; I got a battered copy of a book which I don’t think is in print anymore, and now a beautiful graphic novel turns up in a language I can’t understand. Oh , crudele destino , perché mi hai abbandonato ?
*^* I disagree. Here are some stupid reasons to pay for second language lessons 1)You want to insult a man in his own tongue. 2)You are moving to a country, but they speak your first language, but you want to seem cultured and intelligent. 3)To easily by-pass street sellers and door-to-door salesmen by convincingly telling them you don’t speak their language. 4) Per leggere questa frase senza utilizzare l’applicazione di un certo popolare motore di ricerca si traducono , come ho fatto io di scriverlo . Zuppa, chiavi , lampada , turbine , e gomma da masticare . Queste sono solo parole a caso che saranno in italiano , confondendo la mia non italiano di lingua ipotetica pubblico . Questo probabilmente non ha nemmeno senso in italiano . Eppure , forse lo fa . Mai andare a dare in su , senza mai andare a deluderti , mai andare a correre e si deserto. (Sorry to any Italian speakers made to endure that for the sake of this joke).
**^At some point during his deployment Chris was apparently crowned ‘Grand General of Rules for Buying Books’ and has thus placed his doctrine on my otherwise un-criticized habits. Apparently, buying books just because they come as part of the ‘buy one get one half price’ deal is unnecessary, and buying books ‘because the cover was cool/pretty/interesting’ is unreasonable. I don’t get it either.
^^*Without bending the spine; it’s possible people, you just have to believe, and be as anal about protecting the binding as I am.
*^*^Now, this is the moment where the traitorous heathens start banging on about the wondrous convenience of a kindle. No. Just no. I will never convert to those cold, artless, non-book-smelling, eye melting contraptions. Books should not be able to go online, and should not be made of plastic; books should have the heavenly smell of dusty pages, have pages you can turn delicately with a flip, and become art when stacked upon shelves with their brethren. I will never give up the beauty of true books, never!!!!
^*^*I was joking. Chris does not expect me to ask permission or for money to buy things, but I often consult with him when I make large, unnecessary payments…. just not books.
*^^* At this point I was just seeing how far I could push it.
^**^ Which I now realise is pretty lame, considering the extra expence was probably pennies, and I was in a Charity Shop. It occurs to me I should now proceed to spend some of the money I save during this challenge on a donation to said charity to thank them for keeping me in books when I was low on income, and considered them a luxury item. Yeah, I’m going to do that.
(*) But if you think of one, please feel free to comment below or email me and let me know. Because I really want one.