Sunday, June 13, 2010

Purchased and Forgotten

We have the internet now! We've been without since Memorial Day, and here's something I wrote in the meantime that I thought would make a good blog. Title coordinates to the below: I would never forget my internet purchase.

I made it about a block and a half before I realized I’d forgotten my book in the store. I paused, just after crossing under the El, rummaging through my purse and finding it devoid of book.

“Do you need a bag?” the girl had asked after a particularly flustered transaction. I’d spoken softly and dropped the pen and any other number of insignificant gestures.

“No, thanks,” I’d answered, and she set the book on the high counter, next to my lunchbox.

I had simply grabbed my lunchbox, closed up my wallet, and forgotten to sweep the book up. I turned where I stood on the sidewalk, passed again by the bartender having a slow 6:30pm cigarette, by the smelly homeless man who’d murmured something about sex as I’d passed the first time, by the music club where I’d last been with you.

I walked back in the store and a different person was behind the counter, a guy. “I,” I started, “forgot your book?” he finished. We both smiled and I looked down at the book, seeing a new addition. The girl had affixed a yellow post-it to its front.

“Purchased + forgotten,” she’d scribbled in script big enough to cover the whole sheet. Purchased and forgotten.

I had bought the book almost from habit, from necessity. I was taking a trip the next day and needed something to read on the plane. I’d had a long day, a long week, and I needed an interaction with the outside world that felt normal. This used book store feels like mine now when I walk in it, and it’s comforting. I mostly just wanted to do something that felt like me that didn’t remind me of you, but as always that proved impossible.

The book was Sarah Vowell’s “Take the Cannoli,” a collection of essays. I made it about halfway through before I realized she had written most of its contents while living in Chicago, working for Chicago Public Radio. Just like me (if she had been a sales assistant instead of a contributor to This American Life). The first few had me in stitches, but I was sad to realize that a few moments dragged, that every line wasn’t spectacular.

I still don’t know how I feel about the book. Mostly I enjoyed reading it. Mostly I thought she did some nice things with language, with engaging the reader and not making it easier on us. I don’t know, I guess maybe I felt some of it was forced.

This morning, digging for chapstick, I found that post-it on my nightstand. Purchased and forgotten. The book long since finished, I kept the post-it, the accusation of my inability to hold on to what I thought I valued, or to be held onto; the label I felt sometimes belongs on my forehead. I’m glad I read the book, and I’m glad I went back for it. But I’m still not sure it was the right purchase.