Indefinitely Currently Reading

The book is an old hardcover, all faded and blue and beautiful; spine desperately clinging to the worn yellow pages, all pocked with an array of spots and stains. It looks medieval, magical even. I recognize the title, “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” though I’m not sure where I’ve seen or heard of it before. The librarian stops me at the desk. This book is for older children, she says. I assure her I don’t mind. You may not understand it, she says. I tell her I’m sure I’ll be just fine.

Later, I’m sitting behind the snack bar of the Our Lady of the Gulf Community Center, staring into the old blue tome and trying to make any sense at all out of it. Adults shuffle past me, carrying folding chairs and heavy tables, setting up for what could be a school fundraiser or dance. Mom is walking around somewhere with a clipboard, trying to figure out table arrangements. I stare at words like “enigmatic” with squinted eyes and no grasp of irony.

I’m on the fortieth page, in the car on the way home, laying across the back seat with my head on my backpack. I shut the book and sigh. Long day, asks mom. I tell her no, not really, just a difficult book. What’s so difficult about it, she says. It’s the words, I tell her. I don’t know them, and I can’t tell what is going on. Mm, she says. There’s a long silence. Keep reading, she finally says. Maybe the words will figure themselves out. They never do, but I try for sixty more pages.

I never forget the odd look of victory on the librarian’s wrinkled face when I return the book the next day.


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