There are these vivid memories in my mind – cherished memories of books and years of quiet, solitary time spent reading.
Once I read a book called Z; a novel of Zelda Fitzgerald while lounging on my third story patio. It was summertime; dead, dry Texas heat everywhere. Hot air rises, you know. Rise it did to meet me there and suffocate me as I read. The patio cover shielded the sun, but did nothing to ease the heatwave I placed myself in. The novel in my hands, however, chilled me. It was so beautiful and poignant. Zelda’s life was one of chaos and love, longing, control, and confusion. At some point, I paused mid-paragraph to notice my bare, tanned legs bumpy as a country road with gooseflesh. In 104-degree heat, I shivered.
I distinctly remember play list called ‘Ambient Music for Reading’. It was playing on my phone as I sat on the living room floor reading Fin and Lady. All the blinds were open. This was another summer read; heat and light barged in and settled into the carpet. Vanilla iced coffee from my favorite local shop left beads of condensation on my hands and pages. I remember most the music. Soft, subtle tunes which unintentionally caused me to read at pace with them, but never actually broke through my concentration until a chapter ended. I would sit and listen then, with eyes closed, stretching because I ached so. I’m not sure why I was on the floor and not in a chair. Maybe there was something in me that knew somehow: the floor was the best place for concentrated reading. Looking back, I read on the floor more often than not.
There was a novel about the occult that I remember with clarity too. I read it in bed every night. Candles burned and chamomile tea steamed on the windowsill. It was fall, still hot – even inside. I did have the window open. To feel the evening breeze, hopeful it may get cooler as the night wore on. The book was about fairies and a preacher who tried to convince his town they were real. It was a claustrophobic book, close and confusing. The heat made me feel like I was outside, sticky and walking through the woods with this preacher. The tea made me so sleepy that I was confused and a bit disoriented just like the characters. I didn’t know what to believe. Hot, drugged nights of quiet lend to fond book memories.
I don’t read much like this anymore. I used to blow through books in one sitting or in one weekend. Sitting on the patio late at night with candles burning or waking up early to get in extra reading time were things I just did and didn’t have to think about fitting into my day. That was my whole day. There’s no candles or music now. No breeze from open windows. Sitting alone for long periods of time, is not a luxury I’ve got anymore. I’ve changed my patterns for two reasons, I think. I no longer live alone; I don’t have many hours without another person to talk to. I also started a book blog to feed my creative desire and give myself an outlet to discuss all I was reading alone; hopeful someone wanted to share in my joy.
I read silently and alone in my apartment for five years. With no one to share my books with, I yearned for literary discussions all those years. I remember calling my mom to chat and pushing books on coworkers. Met with resistance at times, I decided to take my love of books to the internet. Writing and talking online with fellow book lovers is a joy like no other. I take a lot of notes on my reading now, for the blog and everything that goes with that: for book clubs, for Instagram, to have something interesting to say. Reading is a different experience, because I do get to talk about it now. I must talk about it. Gone are the days of breezing through a book for the mere excitement of reading. Now I hustle through books so I can post rapidly enough to keep interest and remain relevant.
In addition to gushing online about books, I also gush to my fiancé. We share a living space: a two-bedroom apartment, but still quite small. He plays video games; I watch and read next to him, glancing up often to see his progress. We read in bed together, so I’m constantly asking where he is or if he wants to hear what is happening to my characters. He’s got the worst allergies known to mankind, so our doors and windows stay firmly shut. The only reading spots available now are under the covers and away from natural light.
Lazily reading for the love of words is not my way anymore. I have deadlines now, a schedule. There’s a silver lining here in that I remember more about plots now – from all the note-taking and discussions afterwards. I used to forget all plot details instantly. There’s less in my memory now about emotions though. I don’t turn in anymore and ask myself how a book makes me feel. I just focus on how I can explain its plot and themes on the blog. Sometimes you can’t explain it though. Even paragraphs like that above about associating heat and melodies with books don’t really capture what it was like. After over a year of talking about books online, I yearn for solitude. I want my books in my head and nowhere else. I want to live there, in the plot. Not worry about taking notes on the plot. Note-taking has certainly helped slow me down. Rushing through books is more difficult with the speed bump writing things down. Remembering plot points is nice, but I miss the other, less tangible parts. I no longer get lost in a book, because there’s always a foot firmly in the present thinking about how the book can make it onto the blog or social media. I want to get back into my solitary habits. Get back to my all-encompassing solitary reading. My life is different now, more people, more plans, even more books. I love my people and my plans and of course my books. I just miss the music and the fluttery pages. I miss sitting on a balcony sweating and becoming the story, only to look up, awestruck and goosebump-filled, still thinking I am this person in my hands. Only to remember I am not.
I don’t think I’ll take a break from the blog; I still love writing and connecting over shared stories. I will try to read alone more often. Make my focus getting to a coffee shop with headphones or making my patio more inviting so I can sit comfortably again. Maybe jot down a weekly date night with myself. A night of candles and wine, music and blankets. There will be a rule banning journals and pens. A time to myself to forget who I am and to live again as another just for a short while.