‘Hello,’ says the book. ‘I’ve missed you.’
‘I’ve missed you, too,’ I say.
I look at the book for a bit, taking in its countenance. It looks neither happy nor sad to see me.
‘What you been up to?’ it says.
‘This and that,’ I say.
‘Would you like to tell me about it?’
I look at the book again. I notice there is something ragged going on in the corner of its mouth.
‘I’ve been away a fair bit,’ I say. ‘Readings, and such. You know the kind of thing.’
The book gives a short sniff.
‘Was I there?’
Now it is the book’s turn to look at me. I hold its gaze for a moment, before going to close the curtains.
‘Tea. Would you like some tea?’
‘I don’t want your tea,’ the book says.
‘So I was giving this reading–’
‘Was I there?’ the book says again. ‘Did you remember to take me with you?’
I close the other curtain.
‘You were there,’ I say. ‘You were very much there. You could say that I talked about nothing else.’
‘And that was a beautiful thing. To have you there, in the room, with all those people listening, some of whom I knew, some of whom I didn’t, old friends, new friends, friends I barely recognised, some who had moved back, some who said there were coming then actually came, some who never said and then showed up, it was a beautiful thing. Friends of friends, even. Everyone who was meant to be there was there. And in the centre of it, you. Of course.’
‘You say that like you mean it or something.’
‘Of course I mean it,’ I say. ‘How could I not? It’s all I’ve been doing, talking about you, singing your praises, not showing off, not that kind, but just telling them the story of how you started speaking to me about what you wanted to be, and how I didn’t listen, and only when I got out of the way and started to listen did things really fall into place, but how it wasn’t really me doing the directing, the guiding, it was you, you, you took on a life of your own, outside of me, my concerns, my subject matter, my obsessions, and how that was the most beautiful thing that has happened to me in all my writing. To basically stand there and say I don’t really have a clue what I am doing.’
The book gives another sniff. ‘Sounds like an acceptance speech. Please don’t… emote on me.’
‘I wasn’t emoting. It’s the truth. You are in the world. Even if no one comes to hear me read ever again, I can say I will go to my grave happy to have had that experience of knowing and being known by you and listening long enough to see what would become of you. Thank you.’
I look across at the book. Even though it is dark, I can see that its eyes are closed, its breathing steady. It lets out a brief snore.