Part One: Into the Subway.
Yesterday, while riding the L Train a very nice older woman stopped me from reading Into the Wild and asked me if that was the book about the people who traveled to Alaska and died.
Well, this does take place in Alaska but it’s the story about one boy who traveled into Alaska and was found dead a few months later.
Oh. That’s not the one. Does he have a son?
The writer? I’m not sure. The boy? Nope.
One of my biggest annoyances is when people assume that their listener doesn’t know something. (Incidentally, I just erased an entire paragraph explaining why and what I do instead. I then realized I was doing exactly what I said I couldn’t stand.) This time, however, I was pretty sure she was confusing two of Krakauer’s books: Into the Wild and Into Thin Air. It’s an easy mistake to make. And so I assumed.
I think you might be talking about Into Thin Air, which is about a group of people who attempt to travel and record a climb to the top of Mount Everest.
No. This is about a climb that takes place in Alaska and a bunch of people die and one of them has a little boy who he calls.
I knew what the truth was but I was done trying to convince this woman. Especially considering she was really sweet and I didn’t want to send rough waves through a crowded subway car.
I’m reading the Kite Runner. It’s amazing. You learn things on every page. I love to read. Don’t you just love to read? I get swept up into the pages of a good book. I love to read. You should pick up this book at the library when you’re done.
Have you ever made something up for no reason whatsoever? I do that sometimes. I wouldn’t go as far as to tag them as lies since, well, a lie seems like something that could potentially hurt someone. The things I blurt out couldn’t possibly hurt anyone at all and I usually only do this with strangers. But sometimes they are entirely untrue. I’ll say them and then I’ll think, “What the hell, Michele? That’s not true? Where did that come from? Who are you?” That’s about to happen in my story.
The library? You know, I work right next to the library. (true) As a matter of fact, I can see it from my window (true) but I never go. I should. (also true) Usually, I’ll just steal books from my husband when he’s finished. (untrue)
I can’t say I have ever stolen a book from Toby Joe. Not once. After I said it, I stopped paying as much attention to the sweet woman on the train and began to analyze myself instead. Why did you say that, Michele? Did you say it because you want to steal Toby’s books once he’s finished reading them? Most of them are political or tech related. You’re more of a culturally non-fiction junkie, or a realist fiction kind of gal. You’re someone who likes a book about loneliness, heartache, love, or hermaphrodites. You don’t make a habit out of stealing tech books from Toby. Did you say this because you wanted everyone on the crowded train to know you were married to a man who also reads books? Was this your excuse behind not visiting your local library? Did you unconsciously want the woman to know you’re married and are no longer available? Why do you care so much about the fact that you made up the fact that you steal books from your husband once he’s finished reading them? Had my lie been true, I guess it would kinda of hurt Toby Joe. No one likes to have things stolen. I concluded that it was a good thing I was actually lying.
At this point, the woman was reading out loud to me. She read a sentence. I don’t remember it word for word but it went something like this:
And, just like that, something can take place during one minute of one day and change your life forever.
Isn’t that wonderful?
It was a little wonderful. It was obvious, but it was a little wonderful. But I concluded that this sentence was surrounded by a bunch of other sentences that lived on the pages of The Kite Runner and that the sentence she just read to me touched her based on what came before it. A foundation, I was not made privy to.
It’s wonderful alright. (slightly untrue) I should pick up that book. (true) I almost did on Sunday. (true) But I got this one instead. (true) I think I’ll hit the library today. (untrue)
I love to read. Yes, you should. Maybe you’ll get this exact book. Maybe you’ll take out this one. It’s very good.
Maybe, if I get that exact book, I can say I started stealing books from you instead of my husband.
What the hell was that?
Well, enjoy your reading. Enjoy your book.
You too. And enjoy your day.
I started reading again. My eyes moved along the words as if on rails. Asleep at the wheel, it took two whole page turns for me to realize that while I was going through the motions, I wasn’t actually reading anything at all.
Part Two: Into the Gym.
Last night, I hopped off the exercise bike at the gym. My heart was pounding. Frank Black was screaming at me from my headphones. He was talking about my ego. A woman wearing a NYSC employee sweatshirt tapped me on the shoulder. I jumped. It occurred to me that I was standing in the middle of the FAST TRACK! isle. I had forgotten where I was all of a sudden. I stopped Mr. Black, mid-scream.
Are you looking for a treadmill? There’s one on the other side.
Me? Oh. No. I just rode the bike. (true) Kind of you, though. (a little too kind, so untrue)
Did I look like I needed to run?
What are you reading?
She bent her head sideways to see my book cover. Her hair brushed over the cover like a fly-swatting horse’s tail.
Into the Wild. (true) It’s good. (true) I’m going to go lift weights. (untrue)
Truthfully, I was annoyed that she was talking to me. I like to be alone while at the gym. It’s hard enough to go every day as it is; being approached by overly helpful strangers is frustrating. I understood that her intentions were driven by kindness, but I didn’t want to chat.
What do your tattoos mean?
They’re stars. (true) This one is a ghost. (true, but vague) I have to go meet my husband. (untrue)
Let me know if you need any help.
Did I look like I needed help? My cheeks were blood red. I looked boiled. I wish I were more like Lance Armstrong. I want a resting heart rate of 30. I want to be fit and trim. I want to envy myself. My birthday is in 11 days. I want to look 5 years younger. I guess I could have used some help.
But I’m pretty sure she couldn’t have helped me with any of that.
I finished my book while riding the subway home.
Part Three: Into the Subway.
Today, on the L Train a woman sat there reading. Her book has had its jacket removed. I had a hard time eavesdropping on its cover. But she had just turned the page, introducing a new chapter.
Restarting Your Mental Computer.
I sat there reading the NYT and tried to figure out exactly what this book might be about. I said it again in my head. I said it over and over again.
Restarting Your Mental Computer.
Computer Your Mental Restarting.
Mental Restarting Your Computer.
Your Restarting Mental Computer.
As my eyes traveled along the words making up a story about how the Supreme Court rejected the U.S. bid to block assisted suicide, I tried desperately to figure out what other chapters surrounded that particular chapter and why she was trying to restart her mental computer. And what the hell is that book about anyway?
Court, 6-3 Says Attorney General Restarted Was Wrong in His Oregon Mental Computer Case.