Saturday
2nd April

I am a temporary orphan

They disappear into boxes, one by one: Virginia Woolf, Truman Capote, Marcus Aurelius, Joan Didion, and hundreds more. After having lived in this apartment for ten years, we’re moving to a new apartment in Barcelona and the bookcases and books go first so that we get them all out of the way when we move the rest of our things in a month.

 

The movers hold the books as a stretched-out accordion before they rapidly put them in the boxes. They’re obviously experienced but to me it’s a bit disconcerting to see my past handled so matter-of-factly...I feel the need to say goodbye to my books even though we’ll meet again shortly.

 

I take Book of Common Prayer by Joan Didion from the shelf and look at the yellowed price sticker on the back. I paid two dollars and thirty-five cents when I bought it at the airport in Philadelphia before flying to Mexico City in 1978.

A shopping list written in French falls out of Paul Bowles’ A Sheltering Sky: spaghetti, tomato sauce, cheap red wine, ingredients for one of the parties I threw as a student in Nice.

I caress Nemesis by Philip Roth; the last book given to me shortly before a good friend was killed. Feeling the paper he might have touched is like holding Joep close for a moment.

 

Several of the books have smears of food on the pages. A blot of chili sauce, olive oil or gazpacho are stamps in the passport that testifies to a fifty-year long journey that took me from a far too quiet suburb of Rotterdam to the bustling center of Barcelona, with numerous stops along the way.

 

The earmarks I made were often the false promises that I’d continue where I left off, a marker of my promiscuity as a reader because  when I get bored by a book, I quickly abandon it for one that seems more alluring.

 

After the movers leave, I find myself in an empty, hollow-sounding library. I miss being surrounded by these old companions, it was as though Juan Rulfo, Nabokov and all the other witnesses of my life watched over me and, now that they are gone, l feel orphaned.