Free Books

During summer break, away from school and drained by the inescapable heat, restlessness would lead me to Mother. I did not realize nearly a year ago that I would have no more of these days, for none could predict all of the changes that have come since the day that I laid myself down on Mother’s bed, sprawling more than necessary, and voicing my case of extreme boredom with great emphasis. She said nothing. She only continued to sit with her feminine air, seemingly exalted away and above the less-than-her-taste would call for interior decor of the house, and even from the night clothes and unwashed hair she wore. Mother’s smile and facial expression, coupled with the light burst of energy expressed in hand gesture and shoulder placing, have never belonged to anyone, nor anywhere. So was the case when she looked to me, held her phone screen in view and smiled “Free books!”

Mother had found the ad online, in the same manner that she had found endless low quality yard sales, a free and litter box trained rabbit, and far too many- countless, apparently priceless, varieties of junk — an ironing board, half emptied bottles of luxury fragrances, wooden pallets, a large VHS collection, etc. Most of these glorified dumpster diving endeavors were made with my absence, as I had developed the embarrassment and irritability that was trademark of my character — my two younger siblings were victim of the trips on their own. For free books, however, even I could let myself feel excited enough to find breezy attire that was acceptable, yet clearly expressed my carefully pulled together “I don’t care.”

As if to test my will of having no shame, the beauty of a neighborhood I had never been through on a dream filled car ride, much less for a yard sale, only grew with expansive green lawns, winding driveways, and an exponential brick count. That is until, however, a more humble looking home, at least in juxtaposition, displayed the anticipated address. There on the curb was a small black, plastic crate, its contents hidden with a cardboard sign — “Free Books.” I loaded the crate myself.

Immediately, I knew what a treasure the crate was. In fact, to present day I cannot fathom why anyone would so liberally give away the classic works of Sylvia Plath, J.D. Salinger, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, controversial high quality junkie-lit from William S. Burroughs, and even a contemporary Bildungsroman novel by Stephen Chbosky all at once, in a crate at the edge of their lawn, to any eager stranger, for free. I have learned that some good things need not be questioned. So many lessons were given to me in that plastic crate- the words and phrases of writers long gone, or floating somewhere, and others still living. Their wisdom, interpretations, thoughts, and secret confessions of tribulation were given to me in worn, paperback bound elegance.

The most recent title, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Chbosky, I had already read, loved, and developed ever referenced inside jokes and notes of mild double entendre for with a close friend- my dearly beloved and fellow nomadic Slutty Falcon. If I said that I remembered the order I began my delving into the both highly accredited and banned works that I had fortuitously come across, I would be quite the liar.

Suffice to say, instead, that while I do not recall with adorned sentiment the first book I pulled from the crate, nor that I have yet read all of the books from the crate, what I have read thus far has been nothing less than hundreds or thousands of pages of ardent storytelling- serving to say, if nothing else, that not a single one person truly has any inclination as to what existence is or could mean, that love and pain are often the same, and that, despite the countering forces of negativity, angst, and despair, a fleeting moment soaking in the sun, driving through a tunnel, downing Absinthe, or even a wave of realization, seem to make the time worth the doing.

-Levi Cain