Sunday night, I had this strong desire to read a book. This presented an unfortunate situation, because I didn’t have any unread books here to choose from. The used stores were closed by then, and I didn’t feel like going to some gigantic book Babylon like Borders or Barnes and Noble because I wanted to get in and out and the choices there are entirely too overwhelming.
So I sucked it up and went to Wal-Mart. I know, I know. I hate Wal-Mart. It’s dirty there and bleak and makes me feel like I’m stuck in a state-run institution and I want out out out. But I figured the limited selection would enable me to grab something quickly and bolt.Convenience – that’s how they get you.
Since Henry was with me, we had to stagger down the completely boring computer aisle and then we had to look at lamps and then Chooch saw a large display for Cars magnets so I had to toss Lightning McQueen, Mater and Sally into the cart. You can imagine how disgusted I was since we were supposed to be there for me, to have my needs met. I could have gone off to peruse the books while Henry browsed what’s probably considered fine merchandise by people of his own social tier, but anytime I stray from him, he inaccurately gauges the amount of time I need before meeting up with me, and so I finish up in my aisle while he’s still off looking at butt paste and American flags. Then I go off in a panic-stricken search for him and my palms sweat and I whimper and I wind up tangled in racks of scarves and headbands and Looney Toons-emblazoned oversized sweatshirts and it’s just never a good scene.
Henry was having a troublesome time pushing the cart. "It must be one of the exercise carts," he grunted as he gave it another sharp shove.
"They have those?" I exclaimed.
"Um, no. It was a joke. Re-re." Here I thought Wal-Mart might be getting fun.
Henry stalled the cart in front of a row of magazines and I wandered off to the whole four columns of books. I peeked around the corner, expecting the row of books to continue on the other side, but instead came nose-to-nose with a blinding green St. Patrick’s Day headdress.
I skipped over the romance section and kids section and self-help section and Oprah section and was essentially down to one rack boasting a meager selection of current fiction. Now, aside from Harry Potter, I really haven’t had the chance to read in a very long while. I think the last new book I read was The DaVinci Code, and that was when it very first came out, before all the hype. So that was a long time ago.I used to read all the time when I worked at the meat place, but they were mainly James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell-type thrillers, nothing that really stuck with me so I don’t count those.
I tentatively tucked two books under my arm and held another in my hand, debating which to get. Some of the books I had actually heard of but wasn’t sure if I’d like them based on the cover art, because I’m shallow and I judge books by covers, evidently.
Just as I was about to put two books back and grab The Memory Keeper’s Daughter, a middle-aged woman with black hair and thick-framed glasses shoved her way next to me. Her body touched mine at one point, that’s how close she was standing. I withdrew, but then she spoke.
"This is a great book," she said as her arm jutted out and her finger jabbed the cover of Best Friends. The suddenness of her movement set me off balance and I took a step to the side. "I read it, then read it again immediately. It was great, couldn’t put it down." She slapped it into my hand, which was limply sticking out in front of me.
"Oh," I said with buzzing nerves. "Thanks." I’m always confused when strangers spontaneously speak to me.I learned all about people like her when I was in pre-school. She’s the kind of person who sticks razors in apples and drives rusted vans with tinted windows and has a doll collection that inhabits an entire bedroom in her old dilapidated farmhouse and their eyes follow you around the room during the day and at night they come alive and fuck you with their porcelain hands.
"This is great, too," she said. Her voice was full of self-assurance and confidence, as though she was recommending books to her sister or baby’s mama. She continued poking at books on the shelf, telling me what she thought of them, like we were having our own private book club meeting, while I casually skimmed the back of the first book she dumped into my arms. I’m thinking that if I wanted these kinds of suggestions, I’d just ask Eleanore for some good reads. Or Tina, though she strikes me as the type that enjoys Tim O’Brien war novels.
"Let me see what you got there," and I fearfully held out one of my original picks. "Oh, I haven’t read any of his books, but I hear he’s wonderful," she said of Nicholas Sparks. Then she titled her head back and pulled down A Thousand Splendid Suns.
"Have you read this?" I shook my head to the side. "All of my friends loved it. Me? Couldn’t get into it." She slammed it down and bent at the waist to look at the next row. I took that as my cue to leave. And I did, hurriedly, just turned and ran before she could talk again. And I was sure she wasn’t through talking to me. What was the protocol? Should I have said goodbye? Thanks? I didn’t really fucking care; I just wanted to go home before she made our bodies touch again.
At the self-checkout, I decided that the book she handed me looked really gay, so a Wal-Mart employee had to come over and help me since I already rang it up. Then I got home and realized that Nicholas Sparks is that asshole who writes all those sappy love stories like The Notebook. The one I bought is Dear John and I’m nearly done with it and it hasn’t done a damn thing for me. It reminds me of the stupid books my aunt Sharon used to read on the plane every time we’d vacation together. She’d sit there and cry dramatically and clutch my arm and read passages out loud and I’d tell her to shut up and take a nap.
So please tell me what books you like. I really don’t know much about what’s "good" and "essential" these days — I’ve always been more into music. I’ve been having a hard time going to sleep when I come home from work and I’d rather fill that time with books and not TV. (I’m sure the fact that I chug coffee up until 11:30pm has nothing to do with my inability to sleep.) Tell me what to read; I trust you guys. No romance or science fiction, though. I really like horror and memoirs, and anything that’s unforgettable. Whatever that means.