Reliquaries of the Loveless

MATTHEW BURNSIDE

Yes I died but not in the way that you think. There is no death like that, none so permanent. Only  the temporary little spasms in passing from one form to the next. The truth that comes after the  light is we’re reborn in the shape of the thing we loved most during our life. Isn’t that nice? I  thought so too. Lucky for me, I became a book in a library. I won’t tell you which book because  that’s my secret, nor will I tell you the library where I spend most of my days peering out through a  spine to the passing perusers, wracked with their ruin or loneliness or love or imagination, fuses lit,  waiting to be ignited. All that grisly business of being a human being, with which I am blessed to no  longer be concerned. As a ghost in a book, I get to bear witness and watch and sometimes help by  scratching something in the margins of my skin. Readers never know the words came from me, they  just assume it’s a leftover from other renters; it doesn’t matter where the words come from, it’s  where they go and what they do next that matters. How they ensorcell a heart or ink a  monochromatic dream into iridescent Technicolor. 

***

Sometimes I whisper and no one arrives to pluck my spine, thumb through my tender pages. That’s  ok. I was hardly listened to in life, too, but who needs to be heard when there are so many rabbit holes of books to fall through?

Today I’m watching a young boy in the corner cubby desk. He’s chewing on his bookmark, lost in  worlds, full of futures. I see him every weekend. Watch him wave goodbye to his mom through the  window. His friends are all playing baseball on a day like today but he chooses to be here instead. He  is one of my favorites. His clothes are always dirty but his smile is always clean. He always appears  on the verge of laughing, a nervous smirk that never quite cracks, except when one of my fellow  books makes him cry. He never wants anyone to see him then, as if taught to be ashamed of his  sadness. He waits patiently until the moment passes, last page speared with his pinkie, then with no longer-glistening-eyes resumes his reading, wondering, daydreaming. 

Only once has he touched me. He read me so fast he didn’t even catch my message in the margins.

You 

Are 

Seen. 

***

Books make great tear catchers; open up pretty much any book and just start weeping.

***

At night when there’s nobody to watch I focus instead on the powerline through the window.  Sometimes a bird will land there and I always worry it will get electrocuted, but this same brave little  bird doesn’t seem to share that fear. Sometimes, if the wind is blowing, he’ll ride it like a rodeo  bronco, wings bucking for balance until it’s steady again. He could be dancing, for all I know. 

***

Most books get a pretty good run, all things considered. Books like lives in miniature. Some are  endowed with the finest covers and catchiest titles so they inhabit the front of the bookstore,  airports and such. Known to all, they achieve fame and glory. Most get kicked to the bargain bin  early on, but even then they can still end up here in the library and enjoy good long lives in relative  obscurity. Some go unread entirely even when written with pure love. The saddest books are those  that remain closed, collecting dust. I can hear them whimper sometimes.

 

The average paperback supposedly lives about 40 years, give or take. 

Pages decay, grow brittle. Pictures yellow with the residue of age. Ink fades.

 

Time here is more fickle. Years blink by. 

***

Today I’m watching a couple making out. Their shoulders brush against some of my neighbors, hearts thrumming as hands slip up thighs and tongues torque. This tends to happen more than you  think in libraries. Silence can be very sexy. Plus, all that open space makes way for forbidden thoughts. 

I miss having a body sometimes. I wish I had been kissed. It is at times like this I understand why  the bird lands on the powerline. I fathom flight, velocity, voltage. Imagine a sky bleeding so many  birds. 

I leave a memo for the horny couple whose hands rake me off onto the carpet by accident, staring  up splayed open: 

Please 

Use

Protection. 

***

If you were to scan a parchment for various pigments you’d find a healthy mix of tears, sweat, and  paper cuts inflicted by some poor author suffering from the delusion that, it only they arrange the  words in exactly the right order, they too will be made immortal. But this isn’t how it works, not  quite. Books that live in the author’s head alone are only half alive. It isn’t until they’re read truly by  one other reader that they are brought to life. Only then can they live forever. Only then can they be  reborn, like me.

 

A dreamless world need dreamers. 

***

Then one day I am watching someone whose heart has been crushed. I know because she is one half  of the couple, weeping where they once made love. 

I leap off the shelf, this time on my own volition. Etch a pick-me-up.

 

It’s 

His 

Loss. 

***

My advice? Bury yourself into someone’s heart. If you’re meant to be there their roots will welcome  you home. If not, they will spurn you. This violence will hurt every single time, I won’t lie, but you  will survive to swim back to the surface eventually. But you must try. You must get lost to get found; must die to dive. Waste your ache while you can. Squander your savage love. What the hell is a living  for otherwise?                 Well. Go on, then . . .              The dreamless world awaits. 

 

Bleed 

Brave 

Birds.

       Matthew tweets @MatthewBurnsid7

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