Words from the Past (and trying to explain their impact)

As an admitted introvert, I sometimes struggle to express my feelings in actual words.

There are feelings and there are feelings, which sometimes defy explanation. I’ve been having such an experience the past few days, and this is my attempt to record, in written form, what I struggle to express verbally. I did try to explain this feeling to my wife a day or two ago, but I failed to communicate it effectively. You know what I mean. You are aware when your words fail you, when the message you intend for the listener to receive misses its mark. Sharon, who knows me like no other person, living or dead, didn’t understand the emotion I was sharing with her, though she was sympathetic and appropriately responsive. She tried to understand; she just didn’t.

I don’t blame her. I can’t properly communicate a feeling that I don’t entirely understand myself.

I feel what can only be called melancholy, I guess. A tinge of sadness. Not overwhelming grief or despair. Not black depression. Just sadness. A tinge, even.

And it was evoked by words from the past. Not my words. Nor even the words of anyone I know.

Let me explain.

Recently, I started re-reading Isaac Asimov’s novels about the Foundation. Details aren’t important here. You can look it up on Wikipedia if you need to know more. I finished the original trilogy, and ordered its sequels on Amazon. I ordered the novel Foundation’s Edge as a used hardcover because it was available, and, when I have a choice, I prefer hardcovers, especially when they are used and cheap.

This was a slightly weathered copy of the book, though still in good shape, that was read by someone else before me—at least by one ‘someone else,’ at any rate. And, as I discovered when I flipped open the cover to the flyleaf, it was originally a gift for another. The book was published in 1982 (30 years after the original trilogy, I must add), and this copy of the book was inscribed that year to someone else.

On the flyleaf, this person had written, in blue ink:

Another one for the library!

All my love

Kay xxx

Dec ’82

Now, I have no idea who Kay is (or was), and I still don’t know who this message was written for, since Kay didn’t say (because she took it for granted that he or she would know who he or she was when ‘they’ read the inscription).

These words were written nearly 34 years ago as I write this. For reasons I’m currently grappling with, they made me a little sad. Who was the original recipient of this gift? And why is this book no longer in her library? Has she passed away, maybe? Or maybe she attached no sentimental value to the book because she had a falling out with the person who gave it to her as a gift?

I have to assume that she was a fellow book lover. Or perhaps still is—I don’t know why my brain keeps suggesting that she is no longer with us (or even why my brain seems certain now that it was a ‘she’). As creatures of habit, bibliophiles don’t change much. I have divested myself of many books over the past few years, but I still have a closet full. A shelved walk-in closet that we begrudgingly call the ‘library.’ As this Asimov first edition was meant to be ‘Another one for the library!’ I have to assume that the giftee had at least somewhat of a collector herself. We bookish types don’t part with favorite books easily.

Perhaps this wasn’t a favorite book after all. Maybe she outgrew science fiction, or her apartment. Maybe she had children or other priorities that replaced her love of books. Maybe she just needed more space.

Or maybe she passed away at some point during the past 34 years, and whatever beneficiary ended up with this book had zero emotional attachment to it. Maybe it was purchased during an estate sale and somehow ended up at the place where I bought it for a penny (plus $3.95 shipping & handling).

There it is again. I have her deceased, when she may still be alive and kicking.

Perhaps it’s my own mortality that has made me melancholy. That whole ‘what’s the point of all this, anyway?’ feeling that I hope is universal. I’m thinking that maybe I need to get rid of a few more books, and sooner rather than later.

I suspect that I still failed to get my feelings across to whoever may read this. Or, maybe you understand.

I’m trying to.


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