I usually live with two people--the darling Birdy and my husband.
However, I've had guests these last two months, and I don't mean the fruit flies. I've been living with two more people, named Jamie and Claire. Claire is good to have around if you are bleeding or have suffered a concussion or if you need some really gross tea to drink. Jamie is handy if you want someone nice to look at, or to kill those who are after you, or to fix your leaky roof. I really like the two of them, and am sad to see them leave. I've gotten to know them over the last two months and have loved nearly every minute of it. Their family is great too, and I love hearing about them and their adventures.
The visit has been nice. It's their imminent departure that's a little strange. The main reason is because Claire and Jamie don't actually exist. It's hard to say goodbye to something that doesn't really exist, you know.
For you see, dear reader(s), Claire and Jamie are characters in the Outlander series, and I finished the seventh and most recent book tonight.
I'm feeling lonely.
When I'm reading something that interests me and has compelling characters, I get lost in their world. I become emotionally attached. I wonder what so-and-so would do if they were me, or vice versa. I become a part of the story. Which is great, but is also not so great.
When I finish a good book, I am a little emotionally, and sometimes physically, wasted for a period of time. It's like having a kindred spirit with you all the time who suddenly vanishes. I am left alone to my thoughts. In a way--and this isn't to sound dramatic, but the most apt way to describe it--I die a little when I finish a good book. If there is an especially sad part (Matthew dying in Anne of Green Gables, Dumbledore dying in HP6, the fricking whole of White Oleander [which isn't even a book I would dream about reading again, but an example of a story with a compelling character]), I can't really function the rest of the day. I'm so close with that character or characters that it becomes something that happens to me, and I'm dealing with it the same way they do. The story becomes something that takes place in my mind. When I'm reading, I have little comprehension about time passing or pages turning.
I don't know if I'm the only one who feels this way. I'm certainly one of the few people I know who read so much, but one of the only people in my acquaintance who view books as friends. I regard The Little Princess, the Little House Books, The Twenty-One Balloons and others as real people, people who have helped me through hard times and exposed me to new ideas. My friend Brianna is the only other person I've met who I think might feel the same way about books or stories, but I've never really asked her outright. If I'm feeling a little discouraged, Laura and her Ma sort me right out. If I'm feeling lonely, Sara Crewe puts me to rights with her tale of abandonment and optimism. If I miss the particular thrill of a first love, then it's Twilight for sure. Each book and each character bring me the comfort of a good, old friend.
The stories I read simply become a part of me. I live a hundred different lives every time I look at my book shelf. It can be, in a word, exhausting.
However, it's the best thing that has ever happened to me. I can't imagine my life without books and stories. My mom in a way realizes this love of stories (she was named after Beth in Little Women). Every room I had since I was in kindergarten until I graduated high school had a specific reading corner--a nook in Pennsylvania and a window seat in Washington. She would also take us to the library any time we wanted, regardless of what she was in the middle doing, planning to do, or thinking about doing. I think that was one of the best things she ever did for me.
(Side note: I couldn't believe that I got to have a window seat in my room when I saw the plans for the house. It felt so...bookish. Like something a character in a book would have, which thrilled me to no end.)
Brandon loves reading too, though I just described to him how I feel about reading and he looked at me like I'm nuts. I don't really blame him. Maybe Birdy will understand.
I've just read all that I've written here. I think the following says what I mean in a more economical way:
I cannot live without books. -Thomas Jefferson
photo courtesy of loxosceles