Monday, January 14, 2013

For weeks, I have carried around The Best American Short Stories 1989. Weeks combined into months. As I have experienced with previous volumes, the time a book spends in my bag only increases its weight on my back.

In my head.

The book, purchased from Thrift Books, Amazon or Better World Books, I can’t seem to remember, still holds its bright orange cover but has suffered from sun exposure along its spine. The sun washed away the bright orange and a dusty tan now is mismatched against the front and back covers.

Out what window did this book look for so long?

What sun passed over it each day?

Where was it plucked from before being stuffed into a padded envelope and rushed to my waiting hands…only to spend more time on a shelf…and then, finally pulled from its spot several weeks ago…”Finally, it’s my turn! He has picked me! Let me do my best to remain strong and to deliver my contents as I was designed!”

And then my new companion finds himself riding on my back…day after day….week after week…with each opening of my bag, he sees my eyes glance at him only to have a hand grasp a fellow traveler. Perhaps a New Yorker…Swann’s Way or the journal.

I have done the book a disservice by carrying it along with others. The book’s companions have left crease marks along the faded spine and large indentations into the top pages, and adding final insult to injury, it appears that tea, which is also a daily traveler in my bag has leaked and placed a couple of nice brown stains with the liquid further compounding the damage by dissolving the strength of the paper as pressure from another book dug into the tightly pressed pages.

Now, finally, he sits on the desk beside me. Lifted from his space- dreams that perhaps, this could be it! Time to deliver!

His purpose to be fulfilled.

“How long will he spend with me?” What will he think of my stories?” What will become of me when the last page is turned?”

“24 long years of waiting… and now…how long will he hold me?”

Here we are: the 1989 Best American Short Stories. If my history plays out the same as it has with previous volumes, this book should be with me for several more months.

1989 was a big year for me. I was not yet 18 and entering my final year of high school. I had not reached the halfway point of the age that I am now, never imagining that I would be so old. I thought I knew everything then and of course only realizing within the last few years that my true education began…yesterday. Memories of that year really don’t mark it as one that deserves any sort of special mention.

My circle of friends started to fracture as I we unconsciously (perhaps?) prepared for our separation in a few months. We seemed to know that a long goodbye would be easier. We would all attend different schools in different states only to compare experiences during the holiday breaks. I had a steady girlfriend but continued to seek a return of the love from the one that still held my heart.

In a few short months, I would be tossed into the world…but not really. I would be sheltered but not by the protection I had been afforded for the previous 18 years of my life. College would envelope me in its warm embrace – holding off reality for a few more years.

I feel a pushing and a pulling by these volumes now. It will be a huge step when I finish this volume and move into the 1990s. I will be crossing from one of my lives into the next. 1998 and 2000 will also be big years. As will 2010 – all of which I will address in their introductions.

Margaret Atwood is the editor for the 1989 volume of BASS. I was a bit intimidated at the thought of writing some sort of introduction about her considering her density. I realized only in writing the lines above that I needn’t worry so much about her and that I should push forward into reading and thinking about the stories she selected for me. Her introduction, “Reading Blind”, didn’t hold me in a way that I feel it necessary to waste your time in reading my writing about it.

Her last line did state one point of what I am doing in this reading and writing exercise.

“From listening to the stories of others, we can learn to tell our own.”


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