The book is looking at me from across the room. It is dressed smartly, but not to impress. It looks as though it has enjoyed a good holiday somewhere warm.
‘Hi there,’ it says, eventually. ‘How are you?’
‘It’s good to see you again,’ I say. ‘It’s been a while.’
The book continues to look at me with its level gaze, neither threatening, nor threatened. ‘It has been a while,’ it says. ‘How are you?’
‘Kind of you to ask,’ I say, trying not to sound surprised. ‘I’ve been thinking about you.’
We look at each other for a minute, each trying not guess what the other is about to say, nor to think of anything other than what might be in this moment, for better or worse. Everything we are is tenderness.
‘I was thinking,’ I begin.
‘So was I,’ the book says.
‘You first,’ I say.
There is another silence while each of us sits gazing at the other without judgement or sound.
‘What I was saying,’ I say. ‘I mean, what I wanted to say, is that.’ I realise I am sweating on my top lip, always a give away that I am nervous. ‘What I wanted to say is that I have missed you, and that I am sorry for not giving you more attention recently. That’s it. That’s what I wanted to say.’
The book looks at me, again without judgement. ‘That’s so funny,’ it says finally. ‘That’s exactly what I wanted to say to you.’ It looks at me again, this time with a wrinkled smile, like it used to, in the old days. I might be imagining it, but I sense there is moisture in each of its eyes.
‘And I’ve been thinking about you, thinking about you a lot, even though I haven’t been in touch very much. I’ve been thinking of you a lot,’ I say again. ‘And I know this won’t be easy for you to hear, but I need to make some changes. The ones we worked on back at the start of the summer, I’m not so sure they’re quite. Quite the right thing any more. What’s needed. Do you see? I need to make some changes,’ I say again. ‘And I wanted you to know.’ My lips are really dribbling now, and I make a wish that the book has not noticed.
The book looks at me without moving. Time passes. There is the sound of children being picked up from school, brought home, plans for the evening being discussed by passersby.
‘It’s OK,’ the book says. ‘It’s OK. I trust you. Whatever you want to do, that’s fine by me.’
‘You sure?’ I say.
‘Completely,’ the book says. It gives me a brief smile, that of a parting lover.
‘You’ve never said that before,’ I say.
‘Well I should have. I trust you. Completely. Implicitly. With my life. Just one question, though: how did you know, that you had to make changes, I mean?’
‘I just knew,’ I say. ‘I can’t explain it. I just knew.’
‘Good enough for me,’ the book says.
‘Why would I lie to you?’ the book says. ‘I think it’s a bit late for that.’