“Natalie,” Mrs. Stenninger bent down to my desk. Tall and angular, she always squatted to talk to us at our tiny desks. I quickly shoved my book into the cubby.

“Yes?” I asked, feigning innocence, like the pro liar I was fast becoming.

“What are you reading?” she asked. Mrs. Stenninger suffered no fools.

I sighed. No point in trying to salvage the fib. “A mystery book. It’s called Mandie and the Forbidden Attic.

“Is it good?” I searched her face to see if she was genuinely interested. Her brow raised, her face open–all signs pointed to “yes.”

“Yes. It’s exciting.” I grasped through my ten-year old mind to express what that meant to me, but it danced out of reach. My brain wasn’t sophisticated enough to explain how escaping into a book was the only way I could handle the boredom without standing up in the middle of fourth grade and screaming.

Mrs. Stenninger cocked her head and looked at me thoughtfully, dangling earrings brushing her shoulder. “Well I know what it’s like to be in the middle of a good book and not want to put it down. Tell you what: why don’t I have you read a book out loud to the class, so we can all read together?”

– – –

Looking back, I’m sure she spoke to my mother about my refusal to participate in class. That was the year everyone started worrying about me. I was sick often; some of it real, some of it desperation. It was too much. Even at ten, life was too much for me. That was the year I told the doctor I wanted to kill myself. When she asked how I would do it, I described floating up in a hot air balloon and jumping out, or maybe taking too much Tylenol one day.

hot air balloon

– – –

In grad school, while other students looked forward to summer break so they could drink too many Jack and Cokes or sit around and watch reality TV, I planned what books I was going to read, and in what order. As I slogged through Culture and Imperialism–and what felt like a dead-end relationship–I fantasized about reading a trashy romance novel first; one where the hero and heroine were cardboard cutouts instead of characters with flesh and flaws. Then I would move on to something lighthearted. An easy read about Anywhere But Here to soothe my aching brain and everything else that ached within me.

– – –

Even today, I am already plotting my next book. In the thick of the school year, waist-deep in papers and assigned reading, far-off lands and fantastic scenarios beckon. I wonder where my life went, then I open my laptop to enter grades, plan the next assignment.

I’m thinking maybe something YA. Something easy on the brain, heavy on plot.

 


Comments

Take Me Away — 12 Comments

  1. I just love glimpsing into the depths of your soul. Even when you talk about the dark and painful. I’ve told you before, you feel things so deeply and it’s always a moving experience tapping into this. I so relate to how you feel about books. Our neighborhood second hand book store had a sale two weekends ago and I walked away with a loot I am still excited to think about.
    Katia recently posted…A Letter to My Kids From Your Newly Working MomMy Profile

  2. I’ve spent many years escaping from life in a book. I think it’s a large part of the reason I am so content with being single.

    I think I got caught more than once with a book hidden in my desk, although I was never asked to read out loud. Even though I just knew I could read out loud better than most of the class. I guess I was an arrogant little shit even then.
    Vanessa D. recently posted…Whatever, I’ll Just Date MyselfMy Profile

  3. Wow at 10? That’s intense. I’m glad you are here! I love books too. I wrestle a lot with how much blogging interferes with my reading time. I’m still not sure I’m managing that in the best way.
    Stacie recently posted…In All FairnessMy Profile

  4. God, yes. Just, yes. I have spend my entire life feeling exactly this way. When I’m in the middle of something particularly mind numbing at work I wonder if I can just close my door and pull my book out of my bag, and when I leave work, I count the minutes until I’m sitting on the train so I can pick up my book where I left off in the morning. Books are my constant companions and most faithful friends. Also, I’ve been in a little bit of a YA binge myself. I would recommend anything by Rainbow Rowell. I’m loving the hell out of her these days.
    Samantha Brinn Merel recently posted…Pittsburgh Girls Do Football in New YorkMy Profile

  5. In was never a reader in my youth or even before that. Books were hard to come by and the books the school library offered were simply too boring or made no sense at all. But I can understand your passion for books as I see it in my daughter now. How she is so stuck in them to the.point she ignores everyone around her. Yet, I find myself buying more books for her because things are different now. We have books! Interesting ones.
    Jasbir @jasbeeray recently posted…Little stars – Dugrstar Roadshow kick offMy Profile

  6. Books are such a comfort, and shame on that teacher for doing that. I have enjoyed watching my kids sink into books the same way I did.

  7. Oh, wow. Jumping out of a hot air balloon. I’m glad you didn’t do it, but that’s quite an image. This brought back for me a similar time in my childhood when my teachers were talking to my parents and everyone was worried about me. At the time, I didn’t understand why. It’s interesting to me what grownups notice.
    Jennifer Berney recently posted…Embracing DarknessMy Profile

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