It was an unbothered freeze, It was. The water took me in, not because It wanted to—It didn’t have to. It was merely in its nature. Yet, I couldn’t help but cling to what was given, make It my own.
I had terrible acne back then when I was a teen. One day, she saw a whitehead peaking from the tip of my nose and asked me if I’ve been lying to her about something. She called me Pinocchio for the rest of the day. I wasn’t lying to her. She would make jokes all the time. None were funny, though. At least she tried.
Weird, isn’t It? How intimate It can be. The audacity of these books to come with stories that fill your brain and plague you with ideas. The authors who splatter words on the walls, covering the streets with loud text—do they know It speaks with my voice?
Ever since I was young, my mom always read to me in Spanish. For some reason, Pinocchio was my favourite. I think I just liked the pictures the best, or how the name sounded with her accent—Pinocchio, how silly. I found the book at a used garage sale one day. I bought It and tried to read It, but It didn’t sound the same. It spoke to me in a different voice, and I had to throw It away. After many years, I went back to Cuba and stopped by our old house where, abandoned in the rubble, It remained. Pinocchio and I, at long last, reunited, but the words were foreign.
I stopped reading for a while; I thought it useless. How weak it compares against the other mediums. There’s no spectacle in empty letters. Only when I saw her cry while reading a poem out loud did I decide to give it another try. The poem was “Los Zapaticos de Rosa” by José Martí. I didn’t get it that much. It didn’t make me cry, that’s for sure. Maybe I’m lying to myself. It was just dark letters on a blank canvas—it’s not worth my time.
I don’t feel as old as I should. The years tell me differently and the thing in the mirror no longer speaks. It looks ashamed of me. I’m tired of reading. I just don’t get it. Ever since she passed, I can’t take my mind off of anything else. I think I’ve only gotten past the second page of a book. No matter how hard I try, I can’t stop being conscious of my reading. It doesn’t matter what they say or how they say it, I can’t see anything past the solid little block letters on the page. Before she passed, I promised her that I would keep trying to read.
It was when I came across old letters that she had written that things changed for me. It wasn’t like posters or best-selling novels—following the same formula over and over again, with only slight changes here and there. These letters were completely different. They sounded like her. I instantly became fixed on every word she used, every letter and punctuation mark, baffled at how they sounded exactly like her. The same thing happen when I read her eulogy. Never did I imagine I would see her again, yet reading those words took me back. I began to picture her in my mind—she was frozen in time. It was at that moment when the voice in my head stopped reading completely.
I soon began to read again, starting with the few books I had read before her death. This time, I focused not just on me, but on my life. I began to see things in relation to how I felt about the books instead of just what they said. My voice soon disappeared and I was no longer was talking to myself. Instead, I was talking to the books. Each book I read felt like pieces of a greater whole, of something larger than life, something timeless.
One time, I came across a couple of words like any other. In form, they were basic. Yet, it didn’t sound like anything I’d ever read. It wasn’t me or the books: this was truth. It stripped me of everything and threw me in a lake of cold water. The moment was electric, as if I’d looked out of a window and for a split second saw an indifferent entirety. There in its wake, I sensed her.
It was an unbothered freeze, it was. The water took me in, not because It wanted to, It didn’t have to, It was merely in its nature. Yet, I couldn’t help but cling to what was given, making It my own.
Edited by: Ulysses Aganon