(con’t from Monday’s post)
The BOOK BINGO sheets were prominently tacked on the wall near the stairway leading up to the managers’ offices, a veritable dead zone for employees like me. Dallas, my manager, caught me a week or two into The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of Twenty-Fifteen, standing in her way, staring at the sheets, paralyzed by indecision.
The sheets glared back, white and hot and waiting.
“You know,” Dallas said. “You’re allowed to read whatever you want.”
“This isn’t a test. Just pick a favourite,” came her voice, tinny and smelling faintly of copper.
“I’d like to know your favourite,” said Dallas, and smiled.
(Dallas’s teeth were sharp and yellowed. Rumour had it she had a fake tooth, but no one knew which tooth was the fake tooth. It was anyone’s guess.
I sometimes imagined her taking her new tooth, fresh from the dentist’s office – a brilliant enameled chip, or maybe a hard, alabaster nugget if it was a molar and meant to crush and grind – and staining the tooth with tea bags and coffee grounds on her kitchen table, late into the night, and doing so until she was absolutely certain no one, not one living soul, could tell just which tooth was the fake tooth as she smiled at them from behind dead eyes.)
Rumours are many-edged, double-faced things that can cut and bite you if you approach them the wrong way. They proliferate like vermin; spread like wildfire.
Which also means that rumours can be useful – travelling fast and burning away at things until their cores are naked, exposed.
Eventually, it hit me again: the categories didn’t matter.
It was the books.
The books were the key.
“Why the Hell would you read Fifty Shades of Grey as your BOOK IN A SERIES? That book is pure, unadulterated smut. And it’s not even good smut.”
“You sure, Dallas?”
I read, I adapted. I read some more.
“The Secret is your IMPORTANT BOOK? Dallas and I love that book,” boasted Houston, another manager and Dallas’ husband (the place was pretty incestuous, but only insofar as most office environments are incestuous, which is to say not very much, by comparison). “You know,” he continued, lowering his voice, “It’s, like, an open secret.” He winked. It was foul.
It became a source of power, and a refuge.
“The Art of War isn’t an EPIC POEM!”
“It is, Phoenix, if you read it fast enough. The Chinese starts to rhyme.”
“Are you joking?”
It saved me from myself.
Did I read all the books I marked off on my BOOK BINGO sheet?
Did they fulfill their categories?
Were they good books?
Honestly: any book that sets you free is a good book. Any book that does precisely that is worth its weight in fucking gold.
Yeah. I won BOOK BINGO that year. That year, I got bragging rights and learned so much compared to what I eventually gave away. And then I found work in a better, more supportive environment.
There is no doubt about it. It was because of the books.
I wonder: did the others who partook in The Great BOOK BINGO Challenge of 2015 do the same as me? Had they recognized the power lingering on the other side of books?
If they had, I didn’t notice, which of course would have been the whole point.