This is the beginning of a story about me trying to reach the end of a book.
I know that sounds trivial, but hear me out. I haven’t not finished a book, if I may mangle a double negative, in my entire life. But now I fear this book is going to finish me.
Seriously. I have been reading it for two years now, and I don’t think I’ve slept for the last 100 days.
At first, I would near the final few chapters and then something petty would get in the way. I’d end up working late, or old school friends would invite me for a drink out of the blue, or I would somehow lose it for a few weeks. And then things started to escalate.
It was a bit like Achilles and the tortoise. I went from reading a few chapters, to a few pages to a few paragraphs, to a few words, to even less than that. It’s not even a very good story, but not finishing it started to drive me mad. Insomnia suddenly hit me, so I’d end up staring at the pages, unable to take anything in.
I can’t remember everything that happened. I spilled paint on the book, although somehow it only covered the final few pages. I tried to buy a replacement but no book shop, library or dealer anywhere in Christendom appears to have a copy of the damn thing. It took me months to work that out and weeks more to patiently slice the pages open and carefully scrape the paint off, finding the words miraculously untouched beneath.
Six months ago, I got an eye infection and was basically blinded for 12 weeks. I asked Jessica to read to me to finish the damn thing, but she lost her voice. And then my father died, throwing my life upside down. I’m not saying the book killed him, but I’m pretty sure it’s killing me.
I wonder whether books have life only as long as the story within them is alive in the reader’s head. Is it a bibliographic Scheherazade desperate to stave off the inevitable?
I need closure on the book before it has closure on me. I found it in a second hand book shop – did someone hide it in there before me to rid themselves of it?
But before I tell you about the end of the book, I should tell you about its beginning.