Goodbye To You

We shared a moment didn’t we, L? Fleeting, glancing, but real as a gloved finger brushing snow off an officer’s bristly mustache. I had high hopes for how things were going to be. But…I’m breaking up with you.

It isn’t you, it’s me. I’m just not ready for this kind of relationship. I was tentative from the start. If someone said I was hedging my bets when we got together, they were right. I began with a feeling of dipping my toe in the water, never plunging completely in.

It’s just – I have so much going on in my life right now, and it feels like you require more of me than I’d be able to give. Maybe it’s foolish to say I know this isn’t the end; that one day I’ll have another chance with you. You’ll probably laugh yourself silly over that one – when haven’t you heard it before?

With heavy heart and no small measure of embarrassment (in the first flush of bright hope I crowed about you to anyone who’d listen. If only I’d heard the measured replies for what they were – care and concern; instead I saw them as jealous and grudging).

Now I make that sad trudge of shame back to the public library to return you to the shelves, so that someone more pure of heart, less self-involved and busy frittering their life away on worldly pursuits that bear slim chance of success, can find you. I’ll take a look at the shelf and eye War and Peace which I could maybe watch a film of one day, and for a second I’ll heft the slim Death Of Ivan Ilych in the palm of my hand, for your pull is so strong and that book is so short, I’ll think…perhaps?

But this is really goodbye Mr. Tolstoy, for now. At over 800 pages, I have to quit, barely forty pages in. I promise to have more faith next time, to shell out sixteen dollars (minus my thirty percent employee discount if I’m still working in the bookstore, which I hope I will be if only for the chance to see you go home with others more worthy – yes, I believe in you that much) for my own copy. With heavy heart I climb the stairs and place you on the returns cart, praying the kindly librarian doesn’t ask how things are going – there’s no lying to a librarian. I’d have to tell her I wasn’t up to it. When her back is turned, I’ll slip you in between Easy Hudson Valley Hikes and Guy Fieri’s Hot Barbq, and for a second all the other possibilities I’ve had to shut my eyes to will stretch out before me: The Southpaw; that book of Edna O’Brien short stories; good old McMurtry; a new Oprah magazine. But this moment of goodbye is just you and me.

There – it’s over. Adieu, adieu – until the next time.

(Maybe if they’d given you a better cover?)


18 thoughts on “Goodbye To You

  1. Hal Davis

    We all have regrets and promises. Bleak House. Tristram Shandy. If I *really* wanted to, I’d find the time and devotion. Meanwhile, others will be more worthy, Perhaps soon, perhaps later, we too….

  2. amyrigby

    It’s a problem with the library – so many books to dabble with. When I commit by putting down that money, I’m inclined to push myself more and make my investment pay off. (This isn’t the case for thrift shop books, only books I buy new. The dollar books can end up on the shelf, waiting for the right moment). And I’m still a sucker for good cover art, I can’t help it. There’s something weird about that photo.

  3. Tommy Stevens

    When I was in high school, I lost a library book, and ever since then, I’ve been afraid to get a card at any library, anywhere, because THEY’LL KNOW. Even if I just go inside one to read or look something up, I’m worried they’ll catch me because, again, THEY KNOW.

    I did actually find the book in the 90s, but the idea of a decades old fine is a bit daunting, too. I’m not even sure the library is still there, though I hope it is. That really was a great place. Maybe if I’m ever in the area again, I’ll sneak it back and my conscious, if not my record, will be clean.

    1. amyrigby

      Tommy I found a Guide to African Cookery in my boxes of books and felt such shame, remembering how the fines piled up so much for this book I was forced to stop going to the Manhattan public library (which I’d used weekly through the eighties) and couldn’t use the library again until I moved to Brooklyn and could get a new card. All for a peanut soup recipe I made once…some libraries have amnesty days – maybe you can plan your trip around that?

      1. Tommy Stevens

        I was thinking of just dropping it in the night returns slot. Much as I loved that library, I haven’t been there in over 20 years-it’s in Bergen County and I haven’t lived there since the early 90s-, so I really don’t need a new card.

  4. Miller Steve

    I’ve got a copy you can borrow any time. And yes, that cover photo takes a few seconds to figure out. It looks like someone’s rear end.

  5. amyrigby

    It for sure looks like that, or “what am I looking at exactly?” Why? I saw an interesting post about all the different covers over the years, and many of them are bad. It’s all so subjective, maybe they thought it was best to leave the face to the reader’s imagination, but my main objection is I think of AK as a woman and these look like a girl’s hands/knees/whatever…

  6. Steve Gibson

    Maybe what you need to do is watch the 1998 TV movie version of :Crime And Punishment,” with Patrick Dempsey (pre-“McDreamy”), Ben Kingsley, and Julie Delpy.(I know, different author – but he’s Russian. 😉 ) It has a running time of 90 minutes. That is some dedicated story line compression. I know of its existence only because it was in a box of used VHS tapes I picked up at a yard sale. I’ve been chuckling over it ever since. I may be disparaging it unfairly, but I’l never know – I’ve already taped over it.

    As to the cover – “what am I looking at exactly?” – Exactly. And why. Why use blatant sexual imagery to attract attention to a perfectly good (if not great) literary work? Is reading a book considered so passé that the publishers deemed it necessary to do this in order to (figuratively) seduce potential buyer? It’s cheap and tawdry.

    1. amyrigby

      I think I’d prefer Julie Delpy to Keira Knightley in this. The whole history of modern civilization told in a box of yard sale VHS tapes unearthed way in the future…I love the look of stuff on those old tapes, we have an excellent copy of Showgirls and it just doesn’t look as good in another format.

      And I have nothing against cheap and tawdry, I just think the message of the photo is unclear. Still, it’s me who’s too lame to continue with the book – for now. Maybe it’s a winter book?

  7. Steve Gibson

    Maybe it’s just not for you, perhaps just not at this time. A good book can call you, if it’s smart and bides its time, then pipes up. “The Three Musketeers” did that to me – literally. One birthday I had a few friends up and we went to the beach, and kept hearing some odd voice in the background. A friend was listening to TTM as a book-on-tape. Something about it intrigued me, and when I got back to town I took it out from the library. I found the main characters adherence to a moral code and honor utterly compelling. I ended up reading the continuation of their stories and plenty more Dumas as well. All because I heard this faint, little voice …

    I just got home from a two week vacation from my vacation destination home, and the last bit was not fun. Two of main conspirators were bad sushi and long bouncy bus rides..If I ever regain my strength I’ll look for that tape and send it to you. I like how you summed up the irony and random effect of time as it pertains to the artifact.

  8. Glenn A

    I worked my way through “Anna K” two years ago and lost my way once or twice, but in the end I made it. You gotta hang in there until the universe of characters takes shape in your mind. Maybe take notes. So many of them and they all go by like 12 freakin’ names.

    “Anna” was a true life experience — absolutely amazing how you can learn so much about life and people from some long-dusted Russian.

    Hemingway said he’d rather be able to read “Anna” again for the first time than have a million bucks a year, guaranteed. I’ll take the money, but you get the idea.

    (No, don’t try “War and Peace” if this was too much. That one is too much.)

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