We’re at the shops and it’s loud and overwhelming and I am looking for a pair of high-waisted black denim shorts that I cannot find. It’s not about the shorts; it’s about the promise of warmth after not seeing the sunshine for months. I should’ve packed my own shorts and brought them with me, I say. I don’t understand why I took them out of my suitcase and decided to leave them behind. They would have taken up, like, 0.5 percent of suitcase space.
And then she looks at me, the kind of look that I know announces wit, sharp and easy, and it does not fail: Um, because you decided to pack books, instead.
There were fifteen books in my forty-pound suitcase when I flew over to Vancouver. That, and 250 grams of loose-leaf Lapsang Souchong, but no shorts. I do not know if it is because I struggle with priorities or if, on the contrary, I am good at knowing exactly what my priorities are.
How are you able to fit all of that into such a small bag? she asks as she watches me stuff my puff jacket into my palm-leaf-printed hipster backpack, along with my wallet and camera. I’ve more stuff in there, I say. There’s a water bottle and some almonds, I think, and a book.
A book, she says, flat, like quiet disbelief. Why on Earth would you need a book on a six hour hike in the middle of the forest? I laugh. You never know! I tell her.
The library on campus spans across six floors and is unlike any other library I have seen. There are stacks upon stacks of books and you can never find anything anywhere; it isn’t me who says it, it’s the librarians.
The shelves of books carve out alleys and parallel pathways and sometimes, when I need to stretch my legs, I walk around them. Imagine, I tell her later, imagine being able to read every single one of those books.
Do you happen to want two books about architecture, she writes. Living out of a suitcase and the promise of being on the road soon isn’t quite conducive to maximalism, so we’re all downsizing where we can. Ugh, I write back, I really shouldn’t because what am I going to do with them.
Then, a minute later : one of them was small, yeah ? I’ll take the small one, it looked cool. It turns out the second one was small, too, so guess what.
What the fuck, K., another of my friends told her later. You offered her books ? You know she has a problem with books !
There are eighteen books in my carry-on, I tell the WhatsApp audio recorder before sending it off to the family group chat. It’s all good.
You must lurk in libraries and climb stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads …