I’ve been in Wilmington this week with my family and of course we had to check out all the local bookish haunts. I’ve been to Two Sisters Bookery before, but I couldn’t help wandering around again. It’s one of my favorite book stores in North Carolina, partly because it’s local and Indie. Also because it’s the perfect size to house just enough books that a reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed by everything they won’t read in their lifetime, but it leaves just enough room for the books to breathe.
Do you ever get that feeling from a book? When it whispers and stutters and pleads for your hands against its spine. It’s not a sexual thing, don’t think that, it’s more of an intimate moment between a reader and her own lust, her own wanderlust, or word lust, just simple lust of opening. I’m not sure what it is for me.
I do know one thing about my romance with books, e-books will never fancy a date with me, their silicone sleeves and plastic buttons do nothing for my stained and smeared fingers, the sweat of my palms when I hold a book’s folds. I can’t do e-readers, I can’t romance them and buy them decorative bookmarks, seal stickie notes across their sentences. They leave me dry.
At Two Sisters, one minute I was looking at a card that said something along the lines of “when the winds of change come, all you can do is float, or adjust your sails.” I thought this card was particularly poignant for Sars and then, the mumbling of sisters, the hushed voices of secrets and strands of hair sifting against one another by the sea, and the cackling, the giggling, the shuffling of pages. Here was the almost silence of someone placing a palm against a door knob and then I’m next to it: Three Ladies Beside the Sea. I’m rubbing its red fabric spine and deep blue cover, marveling over the way stick figure women look in Victorian dresses and it’s opened, and I’m opened. I’ve awakened.
It’s like that with a book sometimes, or a lover if you’d rather peel apart fabric and find skin rather than parchment.
Three Ladies Beside the Sea is the child’s tale of three neighbors, one a little unusual and two quite satisfied.
They are Edith of Ecstasy, Catharine of Compromise, and of course Alice of Hazard. Can you guess which one I found myself making a pact with, holding tightly against, as I walked toward the cash register? Don’t get me wrong, I walked around the store trying to find something, anything else to attach myself too. Anyone else to take home for the night, knowing I’d finish Alice’s story on the car ride home as my own love weaves in and out of beach traffic.
And yet, nothing. I couldn’t leave Alice and her life of climbing trees. We were kindred spirits in barely five pages. I had found her Derby hat desirable and her goals admirable. I’m rhyming just thinking about it.
We both have a bird – in a tree.
Yes, that tree I discussed last week – the oak growing just outside my bedroom window. When grown too long and during hurricane season it scratches and taps against the glass. Well, this tree has a bird. It’s home to a bird that spends every spring echoing against the rooftops. It spends every spring with me. I know because it has a fantastic sound and it has to be the exact same bird every year because I’ve never heard anything like it.
I’ve never even seen this one; he remains elusive and mysterious and lonely or lovely depending on why he’s singing this particular song. I spend more time with this bird all spring than any actual person because he’s there at my waking, when I’m dawdling in bed during those stretching half-awake moments. He spends the mornings with me when I write or read depending on how my mind feels like functioning. He’s rarely home in the afternoons, but our mornings together are like waking up with a man you’ve known for generations, and yet run from in this life.
He must be a boy I once knew.
But anyway, I’m off in my own crazy here. Alice of Hazard is searching for her song up a tree as well. And thus why she must have spoken to me from under the shade of her Derby hat. Her lips against the winds that trees must feel, all the way up there and alone with their leaves. This must be why we hug them sometimes.
I guess you could say this book found me. Or rather, Alice has found me. So many Alice’s and I can’t seem to please them all.
So I made chit chat with the store clerk, and let her fold Alice into a small brown bag with a green bookish stamp label and I held her against my chest until I reached the car. It was only then that I cracked open every page, scanned every line, mouthed my lips through every rhyme and sentence making sure to read aloud for the other person in the car who is rarely intimate with books, but still has them on his nightstand. He must be waiting. I read the book, like I thought, in one sitting, buckled in and ignoring traffic merging around me, running yellow lights.
I fell deeply into that tree, rubbed my back against the bark of it and let my dress tangle in the stems and branches.
Now back at home, I will just wait until morning to hear my song of spring.
Here are some pictures from Two Sisters Bookery in case anyone is ever in Wilmington to see the history and the seas of North Carolina. Or in case, you want to have your own experience of blind, speed dating, books.