Books will take me places I need to go

The time slot for this column seems to appear out of nowhere, like the next guy’s electric bumper car in a race around the track at the fair.
All of my time is spent trying to figure out what just happened, and then I look at the calendar and it says “Writing Day.”
These days my shoulder pads are heavy. On my left shoulder sits the fat little gremlin I call “What If”—and he’s an ugly old chap who pokes at and opens up my half-stitched scar of grief all the time.
My right shoulder, too, is heavy. But it’s bodyguard-heavy with the indelible writing advice of Stephen King, “Come to the craft any way but lightly.”
I take him very seriously, even now. Lucky for me, he also has the best pitching ear because I am deaf in my left one.
I took on two big hurdles this past week by walking through the doors of the local library and the newspaper office to face friends and colleagues in their workplaces I have not yet seen since Jon’s suicide (and I thought leaving the Christmas chocolate in the cupboard was difficult).
Those first steps to face people and revisit the thinking of those first hours felt like I was pulling my feet out of glue to reach land.
But it is done and it was two steps forward.
I went to the library for another reason and that was to find Joan Didion’s book, “The Year of Magical Thinking.” Of course it was there waiting for me. Why wouldn’t it be?
I stared at the words on the book cover and realized Didion’s husband John’s name was highlighted in blue. And if I took out the “H”. . . .
I was standing in the aisle where all the new books were posted on shelves and it felt good to be among the words of all those authors. I decided right then and there that I wouldn’t leave the library until I had my arms full of books of great variety, including funny.
Nora Ephron’s yellow-coloured book, “I Feel Bad About My Neck And Other Thoughts On Being A Woman,” jumped off the shelf into my waiting grasp.
“The Chicken Chronicles” by Alice Walker was next, then a picture book on decorating, and a book called “Kaleidoscope,” on ideas and projects to spark my creativity.
Yes, sparks of creativity is what I needed.
Just then, under what I only can describe as an intervention by sources unseen (if such things exist in libraries), I turned around and came face-to-face with a black book written by Kay Redfield Jamison called “Night Falls Fast–understanding suicide.”
Now that I think about it, I’m sure I swore out loud when I saw it (though I hope in a whispered voice).
I was compelled to pile it with the others I was carrying, but I didn’t really want it and yet I did. Understanding might decay “What If,” or at least shut him up for more than five minutes.
I was so proud of myself for my reading intentions—all of it—and I brought them home and set them in a little pile on the coffee table, in front of the big leather couch. I piled the books by size and walked away.
For two or three days I stalked the table, pacing the cage and staring at the little mountain of knowledge and fluff with unease and apprehension but never touched it.
I didn’t know where to begin. Should I pick up a book that would make me laugh at my neck jiggle, then feel guilty again if I found joy in such times as these? What about decorating? Would I suddenly decide to rearrange the furniture and paint the walls?
And “The Chicken Chronicles?” It was about fowl friends named “Gertrude Stein” and “Agnes of God.” Anyone who knows Alice Walker knows it’s bound to be a profound story and I knew I couldn’t “bawk” at that.
The black book stuck out. Of course it did. I didn’t want to read it, but I did want to read it. I was drawn to it like my thirsty dog to her water bowl on a hot summer day.
It was the first book in the pile that I picked up off the table. I opened it at random to page 297. Iris Bolton’s words from her book, “My Son … My Son,” said it all.
“I don’t know why, I’ll never know why. I don’t have to know why. I don’t like it. What I have to do is make a choice about my living.”
And so I begin.

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