Friday, July 9, 2010

Reading #3

Virginia leaves the armchair and enters the fiction stacks, trying to pretend she feels better. But the book titles are wavering on their spines, just a little bit. When she was a kid there was a Food Giant in this space. Her mother used to send her here for milk and eggs. Virginia would stand before the open refrigerator case, letting the air wash over her hot skin.

She gazes wearily at the books. She turns the corner into the next nook and becomes caught in a symbiotic browsing pattern with another customer. Together they make their way through the early alphabet, then the middle. The stranger moves to the next nook, and Virginia follows. The woman’s hair is pulled into a rubber band, a fringe of wisps curling at the back of her neck. She pulls a Kingsolver novel from the shelf and examines the back cover. Virginia wants to tell her it’s a good one, she should read it, but then she doesn’t. The woman carries one of the mesh shoulder bags provided by the store. Inside are cardboard infant books. Runaway Bunny, Goodnight Moon. Stories Virginia read to her daughter, Gretchen, years and years ago.

The woman returns the novel to the shelf—too bad, Virginia thinks—and with her high reach exposes a tiny belly-button ring and silvery remains of stretch marks on her abdomen. Virginia glances sideways at her face. Strong-featured, with a wide forehead and high cheekbones and full lips and a pointed chin, she’s beautiful in the way of those women who don't wear makeup. When they reach the end of the alphabet the woman gives her a little smile of farewell and wanders away. She looked like the sort of person Virginia might befriend. A person more interesting than a place like Tucson.

The movie starts in ten minutes. Going to the theater in the middle of the day is part of an effort toward marital rejuvenation. Virginia isn’t entirely on board with the philosophy that more time together is just the thing for a floundering marriage, but they’re in couples counseling and it’s bad form to resist. Their therapist has the creative spirit of a stripmall architect. She characterizes their marital crisis as a case of the doldrums, and cheerily prescribes matinees as a means to kick up a little breeze, to set the sails fluttering again. They’ve been in therapy for six months, every Wednesday, yet their situation feels less like a temporary stillness than it does a permanent dead calm.

As Virginia moves toward the exit she spots Theo, standing in the magazine section. He’s smiling into the eyes of the belly-ringed woman with the baby books. They stand a few inches too close, as if they’ve just hugged. On his face is an expression of delight and discomfort. He knows this person. And she, it is clear, knows him.


  1. I wonder if Virginia's relationship to books is part of the plot (and visa versa). It's interesting how she turns to the fiction stack pretending to feel better as one would put on a face before going into a meeting or a party where one wasn't that excited to attend. At the same time, it's interesting how the spines of the books "wave"r back unsteadily almost mirroring Virginia's mood. She talks about the Barbara Kingsolver book as if it was a good friend. Time will tell.

    I wonder why I'm fine with the ad for Bookman's alongside the writing, but less okay with it as a link within the text. Is this product placement?

  2. Aha! The question about product placement is part of my experiment in civil discourse, not to mention art and commerce. I don't have an answer to this yet, but I'm going to watch & see what happens. Bookman's hasn't remunerated me in any way for these links...does this make it advertising, or admiration, or just support for locally owned business in general? And what if Bookman's had paid me? How would that effect your experience of this text? Very curious to know.


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