There is always someone at the end of each book I finish, standing casually at the corner of the ending and the next beginning, one foot up on the wall, waiting for me with a smile and a cigarette between their fingers.
Whatever they are, they seem human. Humans made of words. They are the people who evade me at every turn as I chase them down, one exhausted, rattling breath away from giving up, one tiny thread of insane curiosity driving me forward. They’re always a step ahead of me; I, at their heels, always a fingertip’s length away from reaching out and grazing their skin. I don’t know why I run after them. I just do. It’s the only rule in this mad reality – the only routine.
The words move us forward. Each sentence tumbling on after the other is another footfall on the cold, concrete ground beneath us.
We run and we run and we run. We run in circles, we run in long strides, we run in slow motion.
Until it happens. Until my fingers slip under the paper of the last page and pull it forward, summoning a great something from the depths of the novel. Until they slip out from the words like a shadow, a shadow with a face and a name.
We meet. We might shake hands. Or we might fight and kill each other. We might simply stare into each other’s eyes and question the other’s existence.
Sometimes there are tears. Sometimes there is blood. Sometimes there is sorrow, happiness, or betrayal. But there is always something. And that is the whole point, isn’t it? We read the story for that something. That little, tiny something that either makes it worth it, or doesn’t.
There are so many people living between the sheets of parchment paper that sit on my bookshelf. So many voices calling out to be heard. I am afraid my life is not, and will not ever be, perhaps, long enough to satisfy all the hands that long to reach out and touch me, change me.
There are so many heroes to be found there. So many villains.
I want to know them all. I want to learn about their parts in this mad, forever-shifting reality of ours. I want to ask them how their stories can be so complex and yet so simple, so impossible to break down and yet so completely breakable. I want to understand the layers and layers of good and evil, mystery and fiction, romance and tragedy, and how they all pile up on top of each other until they melt like wax into our twisted little world – a world in which good people die of cancer but children build snowmen, a world in which poems are written but the lovers who write them grow cold, and a world in which sad stories are told right along with the beautiful ones.
Maybe it’s all beautiful. I’m still trying to figure that part out.
All I know is that I am a reader because I enjoy the chase. I enjoy the mountains and the waterfalls and the valleys I find myself in during my travels. I enjoy the thrill and sensation of running towards my next discovery, my new understanding. Moving from one moment to the next, dancing through an eternal string of moments, both light and dark, that brighten these hallowed halls of ours.
Because that is what we are all doing – whether we are readers, lovers, writers, poets, artists, musicians.
Running. Towards what, no one really knows.
Just keep running, and maybe someday we’ll find out.