Vignette No.3 – Enquiry

Enquiry

I am looking for a book.

It is large. Rectangular. Oh – yes, books usually are – bear with me. The cover is blue. Not a faded blue, though the book is old, but dark, rich, a cobalt blue. There is a pattern drawn into the binding that might be a flower or a sun or a star, depending on the angle at which you hold it. Maybe even a face.

Inside, the paper is yellowed at the edges and softened by many fingers over many years. In parts the pages have cracked away from the spine and been stuck back into place with sticky tape. I would like to apologise for that. I was six. I didn’t know any better.

When you hold the book close to your face, there is a smell that I do not know quite how to describe, of paper and age and ink, of mown grass from that day I read it by the river and the sun that shone on the pages so brightly they were hard to read, of spaghetti from that night I read it under the table during dinner and dripped sauce into the binding, of exhaust and petrol from car trips when it held me tight through a hundred miles on a night road.

It is my book.

I can see you thinking. The question is prying at the corners of your mouth, trying to escape. If I loved this book so much, where is it now? Why have I come to you, searching for it, when it should be safe on my shelf enjoying a quiet retirement, the peace of a little dust before being rediscovered in a second flowering? And yes, it is a good question. The right question.

I lost it. Please don’t ask me any more.

No, I’m sorry, I don’t know the title. It was long, I think, and coiled silver across the blue cover like a serpent shining in the sea, long twisting letters I couldn’t quite read.

I was six years old.

That’s all right. Thank you for looking. It’s out there somewhere still, waiting for me; the good books never die. They are passed on, find their way onto different shelves and into different hands, circle the garage sales and charity shops like tired travellers until they find the right reader and can rest at last.

It will come back to me.

© Faith Mudge, 2012

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