The Book Friend
Updated: Jul 30, 2020
I call him The Book Friend because I have no idea what his name is. He must've mentioned it, but who remembers. It didn't matter. We met for the first time at the local library in Carmiel. I was standing in one of the aisles, browsing through James Joyce's Ulysses and pretending to understand what I was reading. He approached me and expressed how impressed he was with my taste in books. He said he very much liked Irish literature and I explained that the only Irish writer I had read was Oscar Wilde. We talked about Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Ernest.
My phone rang, and I answered. It was a good friend of mine, let's call her Marilyn after her admiration for Marilyn Monroe. She asked if she could come and pick me up for lunch. I said yes, I'm in the library. The guy preferred to keep talking, but I wanted to check something out before leaving. Maybe something Irish actually. I didn't dare take out Ulysses, so I pulled out the next best Joyce, The Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. He looked at me with sparkling eyes. Like saying, that's a woman with good taste in books. I was delighted. I - know books.
He asked why I was in a hurry, and I explained that a friend was coming to pick me up for lunch. He seemed disappointed. I'd enjoyed the spontaneous conversation and so found myself inviting him to join us. And he, going with the flow like only real readers can, who flow daily from page to page - answered yes without hesitation.
She picked us up from the library, and we headed to one of our favourite Cafes. She didn't ask who he was when we got in the car; said a distracted "Hello" through the front mirror after a quick introduction and when we sat down to order, was clearly ignoring him. She and I ordered coffee and food, he ordered a sandwich.
Marilyn has always been a realistic person with a head well screwed onto her shoulders, who likes to have horribly dull chats and believes them to be the most exciting discussions within a mile. I loved her for that, it made me feel rich; only the rich have such conversations. She sipped her coffee, her fingers dancing over the rim of the mug as she told me - in her way that always sounded more like an announcement - about the new guy in her life. They met at Salsa class; He'd already invited her twice to dance. She loved his tattoos and hairstyle but wasn't sure if he was dancing too close to her because he fancied her, or if it was bad form.
The Book Friend wasn't as nutritious a conversationalist as he was in the library. He sat quietly, nibbling away at his sandwich and from time to time made a small comment that made Marilyn eye him judgmentally.
On the drive back, she dropped him off at his house, and we continued on to my place. Only then did it occur to her to ask, "By the way, who was that guy?"
"The guy who was eating with us just now."
"I don't know, Marilyn."
Staring at me, she ignored the traffic light as it changed to green, "What do you mean, you don't know? Did you invite a complete stranger to have lunch with us?"
"He's not a stranger," I defended him, "I met him in the library. Go, the light is green."
"You're insane," She raised her voice, "He could've been a rapist or a thief. He could've pulled a gun on us inside the car!"
I told her, not this bookworm. Maybe other men, like individuals she was spending time with at Salsa. Not a sweet nerdy guy I met in the library while holding a copy of Ulysses. She called me crazy, said only I do things like that, that it's so "Moriah" of me, and dropped me off at my house.
A year later, I lived in Jerusalem. I spent two months there at a sublet to break away and work on my novel.
One day, I randomly bumped into my psychopath ex, Blondy. Like a third of the millennial generation, he had to return to his parents' home, who lived in the capital city, to fix the problematic financial situation he had gotten himself into, and found himself staying for a considerably longer period. He suggested we go out for a drink, asked if I wanted a beer or something to eat, but I... couldn't concentrate. Outside a small bookstore, there was a table with stacks of free second-hand books for the public. I find it exciting to see a random pile of books, you can find all sorts of treasure. I was drawn to the table and started browsing. Blondy got bored and sat down to wait on stairs nearby, smoking a cigarette. Next to me stood a guy, he was also browsing books. After about ten minutes, our eyes met for a quick second.
"Say, is there a chance you ever lived in Carmiel?"
I stared at him, not believing, "The Book Friend?"
"Is that my name?"
He asked what I was doing there, and I said I was subletting for a while. I asked the same question, and he said he was studying here at university. We got into another casual chat. About books, of course. This time I veered in another, pulling out one of my favourite books, The Stranger. As we were talking about the wonders of Albert Camus, Blondy subtly indicated that it might be time to go. I nodded, implying I was coming. The Book Friend asked where we were going, and I said, "out for a drink." He seemed to be waiting for an invitation, and I decided to give it to him. And he, just like a reader who when it arises - is not ashamed to cry or laugh in front of the pages - agreed without hesitation.
As expected, Blondy was angry that I invited him. Who was this stranger that was crashing the reunion he was trying to turn into a score?
On our way, The Book Friend spoke about the last book he'd read, I said I also read it, and that recently I read a lot of Philosophy books, he said that he was going through a period of Holocaust books because of Uni. We sat in a quiet little pub and Blondy started a monologue about his future plans and how hard it was to be back at his parents' place. The Book Friend was sipping his beer, not sure what he could add to this one-sided conversation. I found it hard to be interested in what a convicted lier had to say and reminded Blondy that I had friends to meet, as I had told him before I met The Book Friend. Little did he know, I only said it to preempt the question "Why are you leaving so soon?" which I knew would come.
"Can I get your number?" The Book Friend asked while we were standing at the exit.
"I don't have a phone," I said, "I'm currently incommunicado to prevent distractions." as I said it, I hoped he wouldn't see this evening's chain of events as a contradiction. It did eventually work. I wrote an entire fantasy novel in two months.
"So how will I see you again?" He asked.
"Look for me when you see books." I joked.
"We have to go." Blondy reminded me, thinking for some reason he's coming with me.
"It was nice to see you again," I said.
I returned home with a feeling of missed opportunity. I should've stayed for another drink with The Book Friend, and left Blondy where he belonged, in the past.
But who knows... Maybe another encounter is in-store for The Book Friend and me. I hope that a third time awaits us, and it will be a charm.