Free Write Friday: Book Club

I imagine we meet monthly, in the evenings, after dusk. People trickle in, peeling off their Frye boots and stylish rain coats, scattered with droplets from the evening drizzle. They hold tea cups with three fingers, china inherited from a grandmother, delicate gold rims. Or maybe wine glasses without stems, cupped securely in hand. A cheese plate laid out with warm Brie and rosemary crackers, plump purple grapes on the vine. The lighting is dimmed just barely, warm glow overhead illuminating the minglers.

Maybe it’s just women: friends from a church group or a baby group or a local elementary school; tethered by shared stage of offspring and the need to get out of the house for adult conversation. Or maybe it’s a neighborhood group: gathered from one street, connected by locale but varying in age and marital status and recreational interest. 

I imagine some have read the book, a few all the way to the end. Most have found time to make it only part way through, returning it to the library a week after the due date, resigning themselves to the fact that they won’t actually finish it and accumulating a small fine is not going to push the cause further. 

We take our seats, glass in hand, fruit tart on plate. Circling round, small talk continues in twos and threes. We’re friendly and interested. The host begins, we each rate the book on a scale of 1 to 10. I never choose 10, no matter how much I like the book. Extremes make me wary; there’s always room for improvement. Someone’s off on a tangent, dissecting the weather or their sister or the last movie they saw. 

Most like the book, a few dissent. We all wrote book reports in high school and college, but this is less analytical, more a social interaction, a question of how much one succumbs to group think. I imagine the conversation weaves through topics as they relate to our children, our jobs, our neighborhood. There’s a pause, pregnant with silence, and someone checks the time. I imagine we’re all a little hesitant to leave. Eventually we scatter, back to our homes and our bedside stack of novels and manuals on child rearing in the modern age. 

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Free Write Friday: Reading Peter

The cream cord spiraled on the Formica counter. My mom lifted me up as I held the receiver to my ear. My grandmother was on the other end, eager to hear what I had to say. I balanced the book on my lap, turned the worn pages with sage lettering and delicate drawings of a defiant rabbit, an angry gardener and a new jacket left behind.

The letters still swam, but I sorted them out, plucked each from the recesses of my mind: a pool of shapes and lines intersecting and crossing, curving around. Then I linked them together, like one boxcar to the next. I paused with each sound so they were connected but staccato, not quite cohesive.

I remember it being difficult, and then all of a sudden it wasn’t. Some synapse connected and I could read. I could make sense of the shapes strung together like Christmas lights. Like magnets they drew themselves together; like a baby babbling they sounded themselves out. I didn’t have to work at it anymore; it was automatic. Like breathing or the beating of the chambers of the heart: involuntary and subconscious. I only thought about it if I stumbled, skipped a beat.

My grandmother listened patiently as I read each page, pondered each picture. I later wondered if I was actually reading, if it was all a farce, if I simply memorized the whole thing, not knowing what memorization really was; it only came as the vaguest sense that maybe I was an impostor, deceiving my loved ones. I felt uneasy.

I still feel unsettled sometimes, like maybe I am an imposter in this life of mine, pulling a ruse over all those involved. My insecurities linger, from that five-year-old sitting on the counter, grandmother on the line. I wonder have I really achieved what I think I’ve accomplished, or is it simply an elaborate mimicking of all that I should know.

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