book hauls, book dealers, and my search for patience

I met with a book dealer, a new one, a few hours ago for transaction. Well, they’re actually just strangers who sell their old books or give them away for free because who knows why, but I call them book dealers because it sounds cooler. My default book dealer, who I will refer to as G, is a tall, lithe, birdlike man with a scruffy beard. He teaches yoga and is, perhaps, one of the most interesting people out there. And I don’t even know him as much as I want, but I can tell he’s a very profound guy. A couple of my favorite books came from his own collection that he was downsizing, actually, so I know he has good taste in literature. My other book dealer, the one I met earlier, is K. She is a pregnant woman who wears all black. She’s actually a vegan and is a practitioner of zero waste living, so she’s been getting rid of a lot of her stuff to minimize her waste, and also to make way and give space for her baby. One of the things she was getting rid of were her books so she gave them away for free. My heart hurt a bit; I’m a vegan and want to get into zero waste (failed attempts so far, but who’s counting?!) but I cant get into the whole minimalism thing when it comes to books. I can give away anything, but books I really can’t. I know I should get rid of my clothes and shoes. I have way too many, and far too few that I actually put to use. I’m thinking of giving them all away and just buying/thrifting same sets of everything: dark jeans and trousers, white button ups, black shirts and turtlenecks. Never been a fan of fashion to be honest, and I have way too many clothes picking up dust in my closet. Perhaps after my graduation this October!

Anyway, I felt guilty of taking advantage of my book dealer’s kindness (she had a couple of books up for the taking, but I unabashedly and selfishly took four when I know I should’ve just stuck to one or two, because for sure other people want these books as well, but well, the idea of free books was just too tempting, sorry!!!) But yeah, I felt guilty so in exchange for the books that I asked for, I gave her a bunch of oranges in return, which didn’t really cost a lot. I got the following from K:

New copies of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain.

I was never brought up on the classics and reading for me has been a solitary thing ever since, so the things I read from my childhood were all from my own discovery, which means I read a lot of contemporaries. I’m acquainting myself with the classics bit by bit, and I’ve heard Twain’s writing is way ahead of his time, so my fear of being alienated from his language is kept at bay. The books were still sealed with plastic and have never been read, and I thought K was crazy for giving them away, so I snatched them up and told her I’d take them. They are in perfect condition!

Norwegian Wood by Haruki  Murakami.

I am on the fence with Murakami. I enjoyed South of the Border, West of the Sun very much, as well as his short stories, but I couldn’t get into After Dark even after I finished it. I tried Kafka on the Shore and Hardboiled Wonderland and gave up on them as well. I don’t exactly know what’s wrong; perhaps my eyes and judgments are clouded, but I tried so hard to get into the last three books to no avail. So here’s hoping I like Norwegian Wood! Anyway, I got it for free and it’s still in very good condition, so I’m definitely not complaining!

Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman.

It’s a battered copy and has definitely seen better days. The cover is completely ripped apart, it’s totally gone, and the book itself is split in half, unhinged from its spine. But hey, free is free and it’s what’s inside that matters, plus I already fixed it with masking tape! I love it either way. I can tell this is a well loved book. I’ve had numerous paperbacks give up on me for being abused and read so many times, so this Anansi book isn’t really surprising to me. It would’ve ended up the same way, would be the imago of the book should I get it brand new. I never liked mint condition books anyway. Those are sad books because you know they’ve never been read, and books are lonely when you don’t spread their pages apart to reveal their secrets. A battered book is a happy book!

Also, I just find it so funny because buying another Gaiman reminded me of this encounter I had with my staff writer weeks ago. She asked me why I’ve never read Sylvia Plath and she was shocked that I’ve never read The Bell Jar in my teens. She said, and I quote, “Whaaat? You’ve never read The Bell Jar?! But it’s every sad teenage girl’s story…”

To be true, I was a sad, prepubescent girl, okay, I had my emo phase, but let’s not get into that… BUT I was more of a Gaiman-Tolkien-King girl during those times. High fantasy, urban fantasy, and horror were my shit. My reading tastes back then weren’t sad at all, even though I was terribly sad and alone in real life. Perhaps I channeled my energies to the weird and the angry, the macabre and the violent, the angsty and the Other instead of wallowing in sadness even more. I got those from Gaiman and King. Coraline, The Sandman, Fragile Things, Pet Sematary, The Shining, Duma Key, It, Carrie, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Harry Potter, Jurassic Park, these were my teenage companions! I was a sad prepubescent girl, but my literature was never sad. I guess I didn’t want to wallow in my sadness so I didn’t search for it in the books I read, which is great and all because I think if I read Plath during those dark hours, I would’ve gotten it all wrong. I would’ve romanticized suicide and thought it was all cool to be depressed and to be cutting myself. Maybe at that precarious prepubescent mind I would’ve been driven to do something unthinkable, like stick my head in a gas oven or something, and think it’s cool. Knowing my idiotic self back then, I would’ve done just that and thought it was cool, so I’m totally not complaining about growing up on Gaiman and King and Tolkien instead of Plath. If I were to read Plath, I’d like to do it now since I’m older, more mature, grounded, and have a stronger sense of self. But right, I’ve never had that sad teenage Bell Jar girl phase… that would’ve been interesting to see… I did have a Carrie stage though!!! I believed I was Carrie and could control people with telekinesis and read and communicate with other minds with my telepathy snort snort but let’s not get into that I am cringing so hard (tho to be fair, Carrie will always occupy a special space in my heart!)

Anyway, after meeting with my book dealer, of course I just had to indulge myself even more and head next  to the book thrift store to get two more books! The good books were stacked at the very top of the shelf, as if the people in the book thrift store didn’t want them to be bought off, but thanks to my 5’9 height I was able to pry them off from the top shelf by standing on tiptoe. I bought The Moor’s Last Sigh by Salman Rushdie and New Selected Poems by Seamus Heaney! They’re still in good condition, though they’ve totally been read through. Still, they are holding shape and, like what I said, I hate cookie cutter perfect books since those aren’t well loved books.

The Heaney poetry collection’s got scribbles on every page and I am swooning. I love it when past owners do this!!! Someone left their bookmark in the Rushdie book though, probably its last owner? The book has an address from India. The bookmark says INCY BELLA THE BOOK SHOP and it’s in Jew Town, Synagogue Lane, Cochin in Kerala, India. Wow… this book’s traveled to so many places. I hope I can visit that Indian book shop one day! I’m imagining that the bookshop is a small, independent bookshop, thriving and transcending against all the big business and corporations. It’s probably a little two-story brick house with the ground floor converted into a bookshop, in the middle of a bustling street… Ahhh that would be so cool. I wish I owned my own independent book shop.

The Moors Last Sigh is something I’m looking forward to read. Every time I read Salman Rushdie, it is always during a hectic time at school; it’s a bad idea because his books are these huge, thick monsters and the deadlines always catch up to me and I don’t get to finish them even if I want to. But now I wont have the library’s due dates and my academic deadlines looming over me so I can read Rushdie in peace, finally! (Past failed attempts: The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children).

On another note that is just as important than my book haul, I regret to admit that I had plonked Sontag and Soseki down… I hate myself, but this is how I read, haphazard, full of impulse and pigheadedness. I read Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel in one sitting the other day—something I didn’t plan at all—which frustrated me because I told myself I wasn’t done with my other books. Welp, my reading has never been linear so I don’t understand why I even bothered to follow a reading list strictly when it’s bound to fail. I told myself I wouldn’t read anything else until I’m done with Sontag and Soseki, but my arbitrary reading nature comes out. Of course I am not ruling them out! Sontag’s book is a collection of essays so I can read one anytime, but I cant read all of them in one sitting, and I don’t think I want to. Soseki on the other hand, well I feel bad for not finishing Sanshiro. I don’t hate it at all, it’s just that I need palate cleansers every now and then. He’s not boring, it’s just my reading nature, I guess, to read everything at once, at the same time; the experience is better for me. So that’s a failed attempt at focusing on books linearly sigh sigh. I always complain about the disarray that is my life, but I cannot even sort out my own reading list! Should I even bother or just let nature’s patterns take their course? Sigh sigh

Right now I am also lingering on the first pages of Jung’s Man and His Symbols, but at the same time, I want to focus on Norwegian Wood, The Moor’s Last Sigh and start on a few poems by Heaney. If push comes to shove (gosh, who even stresses about their book list like this?!) I’d probably put Norwegian Wood and Man and His Symbols first, then Heaney’s poems a close second. I think Rushdie can wait for me; he’s always been, and I don’t want to be disrespectful here, but Rushdie can wait a little bit more, I think! We’ll see! I also read over the weekend some short stories by Guy Maupassant and Isaac Asimov, and a book of haikus; this was during the time the power went out due to the relentless rain. It was so hot and I was sticky with sweat so I read in the candlelight, naked. There was nothing else to do. My eyes hurt from the low light, but I didn’t mind because I love Maupassant; his tales of terror fit perfectly in that rainy, candlelit Saturday night! Asimov, well, he’s regarded as one of the best, if not the best scifi writer of all time, but there’s something about him…. I guess it’s my fault. I am always searching for Bradbury’s poetry in scifi and I know people will argue that Ray Bradbury isn’t even science fiction, but well, I also beg to differ! Ray Bradbury can hold his own in scifi! He made everything in the quotidian so sublime! Form and content are both important of course, but personally, I find Asimov lacking in the form department, of course this is my opinion, you can challenge me if you disagree. Maybe because I compare him to Bradbury? Which isn’t fair, but Asimov is just dry week-old bread compared to Bradbury. I just…if Asimov’s scifi then Bradbury’s magic.  but Bradbury wasn’t afraid to be ascientific, if not ascientific. But whatever. It’s what makes you feel in the end anyway, and Bradbury’s made me cry so many times and feel so many heavy things in his shortest of stories, and Asimov, well, I don’t feel anything when I read him. The Last Question was supposedly brilliant, but when I read it, I just didn’t feel anything. Am I not scientific enough? Are my eyes clouded? Am I reading him wrong? Perhaps I need to be more patient with Asimov. I am the same with Kerouac and Murakami. Kerouac, I had to read On the Road TWICE just to appreciate where he was coming from, and now I love Kerouac. So I think I need to be more patient with Asimov and Murakami. Patience, patience, patience.

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Darker hours

Karen Carpenter’s melodic voice croons from the turntable and I realize just how much Mondays get me down. I live for rainy days, but there’s just something about this day of the week that sucks everything out of me: My energy, happiness, hope, motivation, and the want to accomplish anything for the day. It’s 2 in the afternoon and I’m sitting by the kitchen table with an empty stomach and unwashed hair. Across me there is a shriveled lemon on the fruit platter, an orange from the market two weeks ago, and my dad reading Stephen King’s Duma Key. We don’t speak to each other, of course, but I don’t really mind because I never have anything to say to anybody. I have been avoiding confronting myself the past few weeks, but now seems like the better time to try again because I’m stuck with my avoidant behavior again, procrastinating and putting off chores and tasks with every chance I can get.

Every night I’ve been going to bed with a storm inside my head and heart, and waking up late every morning with the world on my shoulders. I feel so depressed, and my room is just as depressing. Tissue, dust, shoes, hair, clothes, and trash scattered on the floor. Hair and dirt clinging on my tub’s drain and tiles. There’s a freaking cobweb behind my bathroom door and I broke my drawer after yanking it too hard some time ago; I can’t seem to put it back anymore and it has now occupied my pitiful tiny single mattress, leaving me no space to sleep in. Heaps of dirty clothes are piled up on my bed and my bath things are in disarray. My desk, my only working space, is covered with stacks of paper, vinyl record cases, too many pens I will never use, spilled paper clips, sleeping pills, and a stupid synthetic leather purse that I never wanted but still wasted money on. I have no space to work in. My room is gross, just as messy and disordered as my mind—perhaps even more than. I have no initiative to clean up, yet I’m wondering how long I can ignore the mess in my room until roaches and mice start cohabiting with me.

I’ve been eating horrible too. Just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I eat well; I’ve been stuffing myself with junk food the past weeks, which I believe is just as bad as eating meat, and I haven’t gone running and biking at all. I feel bloated and like crap. I keep putting off my review of related literature for my thesis as well as my marketing project for my internship and I just feel like utter shit. I’m not trying very hard and it’s so so difficult forcing myself to function every single day when I just want to hole up in my room and disappear. I don’t want to see anybody, I don’t want to go out of the house, I don’t want to talk or even hear other people talking. I really don’t know why I’ve been feeling this way, and I’ve been trying to get to the root of this for the longest time but I never seem to arrive at an answer. I just feel so down all the time, for no apparent reason. And yesterday I was making a list, like how I always make lists for everything (even a list for all my lists) but this particular list was on things about myself.

I wrote in my list of myself: I always feel like an impostor. I never feel like I belong or feel drawn towards anything I do. I always feel like a crook about to get found out, and every day I go on about my lousy day with my guards up, my fight or flight response kicked into high gear, constantly looking over my shoulder in paranoia because I am so afraid of being discovered and called out as a great pretender. Being called out for what, that I do not know, but I always feel as if I am impersonating someone, like I stole someone’s identity and took it as my own, and that my achievements are never really mine (not that I have any, because I don’t) and any time now, I will be hunted down and exposed as a giant quack.

I wrote, I beat myself up over the littlest things. I hate myself over things people don’t notice and see, but are always visible to my eyes. A neglected task, a dropped hanky, a passing but not perfect test score, an overdue library book, forgotten keys and umbrella, an un-refilled water bottle, a stray thread from my hem, starting my sentences with coordinating conjunctions—everything, really. And every time, I see the need to punish myself for these little faults, purposely drowning myself in guilt and starving myself, reminding myself to not screw things up again or else. But I still end up screwing things again. I always do. I always end up forgetting things and missing things and losing things and dropping things and breaking things.

I also wrote, I hate having other people help me. It’s not because of an inflated ego, I think I just don’t like the idea of inconveniencing people, of having others stop what they’re doing to make way for me. It makes me feel so so so bad having someone help me, no matter how little a thing it may be. I feel an astronomic amount of guilt and shame, and have the need to always repay it back—not out of gratitude and gratefulness—but just so I can say “Now we’re even.” I had a drunken night a few days ago and was incapable of taking myself home, so my former editor, J, had to drive me home in the early hours of the morning. The enormous guilt I felt during and afterwards just spiraled me into so much self-loathing, but even though I was inebriated and half seas over, J told me that I still insisted on paying him for the ride and, apparently, handed him money as I stumbled out of his car. And I felt angry at myself after knowing, because if I did the same thing for another friend, say a friend got drunk and I brought them home and they paid me for it, I would be gravely insulted. And it sucks because no matter how drunk I get, my inhibition and fear of being helped and being deemed a liability for my incapability to take care of myself will never go away, that I will always feel guilty and ashamed of being helped, of being looked after, and taken care of, that I will always feel undeserving of these, and I really don’t know why I am ever this way.

I feel guilt for everything. I cannot even send a text message without putting my phone face down, three feet away from me, as I cringe and wait for a reply. I cannot even eat without telling myself I don’t deserve it, because I never did anything and shouldn’t be so hungry. I cannot even go to bed without telling myself I can’t sleep because I never finished any task for the day. I cannot laugh without being worried of being too loud. I cannot walk down streets and hallways without feeling I am taking up too much space. I cannot even ask dear friends out for dinner or a drink without first thinking, Oh no, I’m inconveniencing them or What if I smother them for being too clingy? And when I do get the courage to ask someone out to spend time with me, I feel shame and guilt for wasting their time, and I think, No one wants baggage.

And I fear for my baggage, because they come in endless stacks and stacks of boxes, each box filled with more fears and insecurities and paranoia and monsters than the last. And I am so afraid of having anyone peek inside my boxes and see their secrets, so I stow them away and keep them stacked, but the monsters struggle to get out and in the end the boxes always spill over for someone to see their sorry contents. And, I think, I will never really be able to get rid of these boxes. Wherever I go, whichever place I settle with as home, the moving van containing these boxes will always follow me.

And it just gets so tiring and difficult wrestling with my mind to the point that it’s much easier for me to avoid everything and everyone, and just keep to myself because why bother. And maybe that’s why I never ask anybody out to spend time with, because I always feel unworthy and undeserving of anyone’s time. And maybe that’s why I don’t have great memories with other people, because I keep denying these simple joys to myself. And that, really, the only memories I have are of me being and doing things alone.

I have stupid post-it notes around my room and one says, Celebrate small triumphs. And I feel like a hypocrite, because I have no triumph to celebrate, really. I do know I should lighten up and stop beating myself up over the littlest things, but it’s so so much easier said than done. That I am more stubborn than a mule, that I will always hate myself for something, and it makes me cry because I also don’t want to be this way forever, but I am stuck and each time I try to take one step further, the quicksand pulls me down deeper, and I feel so crippled.

But, I guess, no one is really scrutinizing me with a telescope or a magnifying glass. Maybe god, if it is real, but I have stopped believing in one a long time ago. I do not really need the promise of heaven to do good and find worth and purpose in this life—though this is something I have yet to tell my religious parents in the future, much to the dismay of their poor hearts. But the only one scrutinizing me, really, is me. And I should stop (even though I know I never will). I should stop. I’m not saying I will, but I should, because it’s what my mind needs.

And really, I realized, if there is one thing I love the most about being an editor, a journalist, and in general, a writer, it is the existence of deadlines and shitty drafts. Time is against me. My days are numbered. I will die someday. But there is always something to finish. And death gives life meaning for that simple reason: There is always something to get done. And that shitty drafts, no matter how imperfect, can always be edited until it passes muster. And if it doesn’t, then who the fuck cares. Imperfection gives me something to always strive for.

I think I have exhausted myself crying and writing. Bye and have a better day