The Ending of the Story
I have an hour of free time between errands. I head toward my favorite stop: the bookstore. I drift between genres, picking up books because of their covers, setting them back down when the synopsis doesn't fit my current craving. I avoid aisles with people in them, guarding my rare alone space. I wonder why are there so few authors with "O" last names. Do they not have stories to tell like the rest of us do? I find one I want, picking it out from the buffet.
I spend my entire month's worth of allotted cash on three books. I choose a how-to, a fictional story and a memoir. This choosing of a mishmash of topics fits my February feeling of flitting here and there between tasks, jobs and obligations. I pretend I will have time to sit, curled up in my favorite reading spot (my bed) with my favorite reading drink (ice cold water, emphasis on the ice) and nobody talking to me (not even the cat). In reality, I will have little time for preferential reading spots - instead adding the weight of a book or two to my tote bag, pulling it out in the school parking lot, the doctor's waiting room and the dentist office. I cram in a page or two at a time before stuffing the book back and returning to the present demands.
"I never have time to read," people say to me when they find out I do, in fact, have time to read. I feel defensive in my responses.
"I haven't read a book in months," they say to me. I think this is weird, but I don't want to admit it: That I couldn't live without reading. That I am made up of all the stories I have consumed. That I crave them. That sitting without a book feels awkward and uncomfortable. That I have two stacks of books by my nightstand and that these are what's left after I have cleaned out the five stacks that had been sitting there.
I read because I want to know what comes next. The plot twists, the characters, the voices, the atmosphere. I want to know what choice is made. Did you cry? Did you open the door when you heard the sound? Walk down the dark hall? Did you give up? Fight back? Did someone help you? Did anyone love you enough to feel your need? Was there regret? Did you articulate what you meant? When she hurt you, what did you do? All things considered, how does it end? Was there justice? Was there peace? Were you better than when you started?
I read because I want to know how it ends. I want to be assured if I make this choice, follow A.B.C.D., then et voila! It works. A satisfying ending. A triumphant masterpiece. Bestseller.
I read because I want to be assured that if it all falls apart, ending with tears on page 364, that it's still a story that had to be told for the lesson.
I read because we're all in a story and I want to know what the author intends. Were we all, at one time, just book proposals? When it feels like my story was scratched on the back of a coffee stained napkin at a 24 hour diner, how do I trust He knows where the story is headed? I read because I lack faith, and in that lack of faith, I want control, and if I know the outcome of every single last option ever written....maybe I'll get it right when it's my turn.
I read because I want to know what comes next. That there's a new paragraph, new chapter, word that is just right when I turn the page.