I do not know at what point reading became an obsession with me. I do know, however, exactly when reading stopped being an obsession with me.
Yesterday, at around 11 am EST.
It was no startling awakening. Nor was the resultant revelation a portal to Nirvana.I suspect I knew all along that reading was a pretense I indulged in. An act that, like a method actor, I had assumed as my identity, but one that subsumed its original intent (whatever that was I don’t remember).
A long, long act.
Somewhere along the way I must have enjoyed the process so much that I gave into its seduction. I made up stories and compared them with those written by others. I feverishly read what others had to say so that I could write about what I read.
Oftentimes I felt I was reading not because I wanted to read, but because I was afraid of not reading. I collected stories so that I could exist in them privately. I could bleed my books into my everyday life blurring reality. A sweep of my eye could juxtapose the humdrum with the literary. Nothing new here. I guess that is the magic of books. Its promise of a heady carousel of characters, a lazy Susan of situations and contexts to slot me into.
While it lasted it was a wonderful experience.
But lately, I’ve started feeling like an excited kid with a pair of holes in a bed sheet on Halloween. I was ghoulish enough within the cloak, but when viewed from outside, wasn’t I cutting a ridiculous figure silhouetted in a shapeless cloth begging for free candy? If nothing, the shoes poking from below the shroud gives it away.
For the past three weeks I have only touched books. Flipping through them and smelling the stories. Remembering the times when I read the books as much as the characters and the contents of the books.
But here is the most surprising thing. Instead of sorrow or anxiety, the overwhelming feeling was one of release. I realized that when I looked up outside the fascinating tales being spun by master story-tellers, there was unfolding on the streets drama.
Like in an immersive theater I see actors par excellence playing their roles with utmost convictions. I saw actors in frayed jeans and punk jackets and headphones, heads bent against the wind, hands hugging jackets close, pushing through the morning wind. I heard child actors screaming and scampering, adlibbing their scripts, oblivious to the machinations of any prompters. I think I might have also seen aging superstars and undiscovered drama queens. I am sure I spotted some self-conscious actors trying their best to read ahead of the script struggling valiantly to be understudies of larger than life predecessors. Oftentimes I saw all of these characters in every actor.
Yes, there was drama. And everyone was their own antagonist and protagonist and comedienne.
The books, they are flashcards. Actor cues. It helps when you forget your line but all they do is remind me of how various artists essayed their roles.
Why wouldn’t I want to grin devilishly and flick the screenplay out? I could always grab someone else’s when they are busy practicing their lines!