Books and their Covers
I bet you're familiar with the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover." It's a simple saying that advises against basing your impression of something merely on its appearance. More than likely you've heard it from childhood, probably from your parents. Now, whether they introduced you to this concept because they want you to look deeper into matters or simply because you refused to crack open anything remotely close to literature, that's an entirely different topic. Still, you've heard the phrase, used it and probably tried to apply its mentality to your everyday life. But, truthfully, and I'm sorry to say this, no matter how much you try not to judge people by how they appear, the reality is that you do just that every single day of your life. Her jeans are dirty; he picks his nose, she cries when someone yells; he dumped that girl because she loves salad…The list goes on and on. All these misconceptions, all these shallow readings and unnecessary hurt simply because you, in all honesty, judge books by their covers.
But, I guess karma has its way of kicking your ass, because if there are 6 billion people in the world and everyone judges everybody else, you do the math and figure out the simple truth that you're as much of a victim of appearance as your own victims. Now, whether that's supposed to make you feel better or not, I have no clue. But, what I do know is that even though you run everyone you meet by your personal Supreme Court, sometimes you try to come to a conclusion after all is said and done. Have a cookie for a job well done! I should probably rephrase that. Have a cookie for an effort well made! And I make this correction because, let's face it, your Supreme Court is bias, regardless of whether you made the effort or not. In other words, sure, he picked his nose, but that was because he has a rare itchy medical condition. In other words it couldn't be helped. Yay! He's forgiven! But, don't shake his hand, because, in the end, his finger still went up his nostril. Ewww! What a nose picker!
And that's just one person! Can you imagine how many labels there are out there? Billions, no, trillions! It's never ending! You'd think people would get tired of judging others, but no. They don't, because it's a survival tactic, a rather offensive one at that. You label others, spread the word, plot people against them and eventually weaken them. Give yourself a pat on the back, because guess who passed the first lesson of Survival 101? You did! Ding ding ding! We have a winner! Don't forget to add that to your life's latest chapter!
But, since people are being judged so harshly every single day, how is it that we live past the age of ten? Well, dear reader, it's because you're a book: a unique, complicated, sturdy book. Well, that and the small fact that you have a lock clamping your pages together like the diaries for sale at your local Books-A-Million. And depending on the content within those pages, there may be more than one lock. There may be two, or three or, heck, why not a hundred? But, I would worry about someone with so many…
Now, take a quick glance at your book collection, if you have one. Look at any piece of literature near you and, before you grab it, notice where it is, what condition it's in and recall the last time you picked it up. Then, look at another book and make the same query. I'm pretty sure that, at this point, you probably have misplaced at least one of the books, lost it, dropped it, ripped it…goodness knows what you've done to it! Still, it's been mistreated, to put it lightly. But, it doesn't get up and kick you where it hurts, complaining that you're a jackass. No, it just sits there. And that makes sense, because it doesn't have a soul. So, taking that into consideration, what would you categorize someone, a living being with a soul, that refuses to change their current affair and situation?
I'd call them a liar, because they continue to fool everyone even when they know they are placed on the wrong shelf, or under the wrong genre. For the sake of security, they continue to act like an Action/Adventure when all that's written in them involves Home Cooking for your Hubby. And you wouldn't believe how many books are misplaced every day! If Earth was a library for extraterrestrials, the poor aliens would never ever find anything! They'd start wondering who the hell runs this place and try to sue them! Wait 'til they find out that the books themselves are the owners…
But, what is worse than a liar who is too scared to go to his spot is a liar who changes his cover and pushes onto others the fact that he's something he's not. The level of manipulation to those around them and to one's self is so intense that the book itself could start believing its false labeling. Such a sad story can only by topped by the even sadder story of a book that knows its identity yet persists to trick everyone. Lying when it's an instinct and lying when it's a conscious effort are two different things. Though they are both painful, the second places a heavier burden on oneself because of the effort placed into keeping up the façade.
The confusion and pain involved in breaking free from judgment is very difficult in this case. Others perceive you as one thing, you know you are another, and, knowing all that, you're acting like something you're not, others' perceptions fueling you into acting against your nature. The more you act, the harder it is to detach yourself from the lie you've created. The more you tell that you're full of poetry, the more you have to become acquainted with everything non-math oriented. How would that feel Mr. Calculus?
But, what makes things worse is that the more others buy into your lie, truly believing from the bottom of their hearts that you're a reincarnation of Shakespeare, the more upset they become when they find the shining Euclid in you. They resent you so much that not only do they try to pull you back into your previous alias, but they start resenting your true self as well, regardless of whether you're so stunning you could blow their minds away. And knowing that their feelings of betrayal will be caused by your fear-based betrayal is enough to shatter all your hesitations and force you into long rants of "How doth the little crocodile." How doth the little crocodile, indeed…
So, what is all this about? What's the point of mentioning books and judgments and libraries and goodness knows what? Does a point even exist? To you? Maybe not. To me? Yes. After all, this is my life we are getting into. It's a story of a book, which, at a young age, made a naive mistake to explore one wrong shelf leading to the change of his entire personality. Such a small mistake quickly turned into something bigger and bigger and bigger, until it grew, consumed him and almost erased his very words. The hurt was unimaginable. His pain can be understood very well by those in similar situations. Losing yourself; forgetting who you are; believing the lies others feed you; hurting to fight your nature; scared to be yourself…It's all a vicious cycle of "I'm hurt so I lie so that I won't be scared" and "I'm scared so I lie so I won't be hurt." And if you think that I just had to snap out of it, gather my courage and face my demons, then you've been blessed with a life where you feel strong enough to do just that.
If I could go back and change one thing, I'd change the fact that I was born. At least that's what I used to think. Now, I still can't say I'm glad I was born, but I'm definitely glad that my beloved was. If not for him, I don't know how things would have been for me. Oh, what am I saying? That's so embarrassing!
The first time I met him was at the bookstore, where I worked at part-time. It wasn't anything special. He wasn't anything special. It was just a normal day where I stood behind the counter of the indoor café and made blends for the customers. There was a small line, as usual, and I was smiling my way through it.
"And how are you today?" It was the same thing over and over again, but I guess it could have been considered practice for every other second of my life off of work. Smile, look happy and people love you. Or was every other second of my life practice for when I get a job? Hmmm…Now, there's a thought…
But, as with everything, there was a difficulty to this behavior. The tough part was finding a balance between cheerily sweet and overbearing. I'd learned to identify that line from the age of 10, not to mention that I'd managed to spot where it was for every individual I'd met. I was so good at this that no one ever even questioned whether I had any other serving of emotion besides a Happy Meal. As doubtful as that sounds, it's sadly and unbelievably true.
So, there I was, doing my job, when I was faced with my next customers, a high school couple. The guy was tall, well-built, with chocolate brown eyes and chestnut hair. His jeans hung just perfectly on his hips, shaping his long legs beautifully, and his shirt loosely framed his lean torso.
The girl, a cute and petite little thing, was his opposite: small, tiny and extremely pretty, with slim features, stylish blond hair tied in a side ponytail and dark blue eyes. She wore light, natural-toned makeup, a tight pink shirt that showed off her curves and a short jean skirt that showcased her pale, feminine legs.
They looked pretty darn good together, except for the fact that something just seemed…off. The guy was wearing this warm smile across his face, practically radiating, but the gal to his right seemed annoyed, not to mention displeased. She had this faint scowl on her lips that instantly changed to a peculiar smile when I asked her:
"And how are you today?"
She lit up like a candle. Batting her long, dark eyelashes, she put her finger to her lips, her eyes wide with an innocent shyness, and went "hmmmm" while looking over the menu on the wall behind me. Then, she turned to me, blushing slightly and with a peculiar tone asked:
"What do you recommend?"
My smile never faltered as I sighed inwardly.
"There are always these ones" I thought to myself. I had been really hoping that her peculiar behavior wasn't what I thought it was, but since I had been right all along, I was extremely annoyed. I mean, flirting? Really? With your boyfriend right there? Was she trying to get me in trouble?
So, with my rehearsed smile, I turned to the two of them.
"How about a Sangria Punch? It's popular among couples!"
The frown returned to her face. The guy, on the other hand, looked enthusiastic.
"You want to try it?" he asked as he moved to place an arm around her shoulder. The girl, maneuvering herself quickly, managed to tactfully avoid the semi-embrace by pretending to look at some sweets.
"No, that's okay. I'll just have some apple juice" she tried to keep up a smile for me but failed to hide her annoyance.
"Coming right up!" I replied cheerily.
A couple of seconds later I handed her the drink and with an "Anything else?" I smiled "Have a nice day" to the duo.
"I'd give them a week tops" I thought as I saw them approach a table near the back corner and sit down. It wasn't that busy since it was a Saturday and an hour away from closing time, so ten minutes later I glanced back at the couple. I was definitely not ready for what I saw.
The girl, looking simultaneously serious and irritated, was drinking her juice and ranting without even looking at the guy, whose features were frozen with shock. Her mouth kept moving and moving, but I couldn't hear anything. I couldn't take my eyes off the stunned expression gracing the poor guy's face.
Did she really…?
Had she really…?
"Excuse me? I said I'd like a latte?" I heard a feminine voice bring me back to my work. I looked at my customer, who seemed irritated at my ignoring her.
"Oh, I'm so sorry! Right away!" I tried blushing and nervously made arm gestures so as to seem apologetic. My assumption correct, the girl chuckled as she watched me bumble around and left a pretty nice tip after I handed her the drink.
"Even though I messed up…" I said to myself as I looked at the bill in my hand.
Suddenly, I heard the screeching of a chair being pulled and looked over only to see the girl grab her purse and walk away with this superior air about her. I quickly glanced at the guy.
"Geh! What a mess!" I thought as I looked at the clock. With only half an hour 'til closing, the guy hadn't budged one bit. He just sat there, staring at the empty chair in front of him, running the events through his head. It seemed like he just couldn't make sense of anything.
Suddenly, he got up with quick sharp movements and headed toward the long bookshelves further down. I tried not to stare as his wide back disappeared when he turned a corner.
"What's that about?" I murmured to myself. I grabbed the white rag from the cabinet below me and started scrubbing the counter.
Imagine my surprise when, thou and behold, his determined face reappeared after ten or so minutes, this time clutching a book tightly in his hand. He pulled the chair out from under the table he had previously been sitting at and plopped into it. With that puzzled look on his face, he opened the book, traced some words with his finger and then leafed through some pages.
"What the?" I tried not to look perplexed at his behavior, but honestly, what the hell was he doing? I glanced at the cover.
A small burst of laughter escaped my lips and I quickly raised my hand to cover my mouth. My coworker looked at me strangely before following my gaze and settling on the reading guy.
"You know…" I heard him say "We're closing soon…"
I stared at my partner.
"I know…" I whispered back. My friend looked at me with a small frown.
"Yeah, I know you know! But, does he?" he yelled in hushed tones trying not to point at the only occupied table in the café.
I knew where this was going. He wanted me to kick the guy out, since he wasn't comfortable with confrontations. I really didn't want to deal with someone who was probably emotionally unstable or anything.
"I guess not…" I pretended to give an oblivious answer. The worker at the register looked at me with disbelief.
"Then, go inform him" he said as he untied his green apron, walked around the counter and disappeared down the hall.
I gaped in his direction. Had he just bailed on me? What a jackass! So, I would be the one to deal with the newly broken up dude? What a joke…
I sighed. The guy was still there, reading intently the words of wisdom that could be offered off the pages. Reluctantly, I started mentally preparing myself for the tiresome task of politely telling him to get lost. So, I made a Caramel Macchiato, thinking over in my head how to approach the situation. Nothing came to mind.
I looked back at the clock. Five past ten…
It was getting late. I summoned my courage, grabbed the drink in my hand and slowly approached the only occupied table. The guy was so immersed in the words on the pages that he didn't even notice me. I gently placed the plastic cup on the table, signaling my presence.
"How to Heal a Broken Heart in 30 days, huh?" I smiled as he looked up from his book. My cheer was met with a scowl.
"What?" he demanded more than asked. Slightly put off, but refusing to show him, I chuckled before sweetly replying.
"We're kind of closed right now"
He looked confused.
"You're the only one here" I elaborated. He glanced around and turned to me with another glare. He got up swiftly, avoiding my gaze, holding the book tightly in his hand. No time was wasted and he started walking away. I sighed at his childishness; it couldn't be helped. Leaning on the table, my fingers bumped into something plastic. Looking down, I saw the drink I had made.
"Ah! Wait!" I yelled after him as he approached the doors. Feeling my hand on his shoulder, he turned around with an annoyed expression on his face. He continued to glare at me as I placed the drink in his free hand.
"It works much better than a book" I winked at him with a sweet smile on my face. He looked at me suspiciously, glancing at the beverage with disgust, before pushing the doors open and briskly walking into the night. I waved after him cheerfully yelling "Have a good night!"
I could almost feel the annoyance emanating from him, but paid no mind to it. He'd probably never dare to walk through those doors ever again. After all, it was the place his girlfriend officially became his ex. I returned to the counter, took off my forest green apron and grabbed my things. There was no point in thinking about others' business. All it brought was extra headaches...
(Author's Note): Well, here's my try at a first chapter! I don't know if this is considered a slow story, but I hope you like it nonetheless! Feel free to criticize/review/comment, anything really... I'm just glad I got the courage to get this out there! *nervous laugh*