Books they say are a paradise on earth, escape routes from all the realities of life, means to live in a hundred different places all at once, havens, keys to reservoirs of knowledge, channels of wisdom . . . the list goes on and on, but not for me, At least, not anymore. Gone are the days when books made me happy. When the smell of a new book was better than the most expensive of perfumes. When I’d rather bury myself in the pages of a book than in the warmth of my lover’s chest. When nothing feels more comforting than turning pages with eager fingers. . . when I moved freely in the world words created in my head.
Now, I hate books. They are evil. Devilish. Bloodsucking rascals that feast gladly on their prey. Books are thieves. They sneak into my mind and snatch away the last pieces of hope I managed to stack in it. I hate books because they stir emotions and unearth memories I buried in the deepest recesses. Books, for me, are the broken tape recorder that keeps playing the same music. Like conscience, books are the constant reminder of a fact I do not wish to acknowledge. That I love you.
Books remind me of you. Of our trysts. Of my pretence and your silence. Books remind me of your love for them. Of all the times we discussed them. Of how they have been the centre around which most of our conversations were built. Of how many of them we had wanted to buy. Of how I envied your collection. Of how we shared favourite authors and genres. Of how we gossiped about the happenings in the literary world. How we talked about the authors who were so full of themselves but who were really just empty shells. How we speculated on who would win The Nobel Prize or the Booker. And how, no matter what the initial subject was, we always ended up talking about books.
We shared a chemistry because books catalysed the reaction that steered our attraction. We fell for each other because books were the gravity that pulled us together. We could fly because books gave us wings. We loved because we were in love with books. We were books, there were pages on our souls.
There is a part of you in every book I read. It is like you engraved a part of yourself in the pages of all the books that I lay my hands on. I see you in every character, in every story. Some characters have your voice, others your smile, others simply reek of you. Every word of every book has you in it. Like you melted yourself into all the inks in all the printers and typewriters that were used to print all the books I read.
You are a memory I am trying to wipe. I hate books for being a constant reminder of you.
Naseeba Babale is a poet, literary administrator and medical laboratory scientist with the Department of Chemical Pathology and Immunology, Aminu Kano Teaching Hospital, Kano. She is a member of Association of Nigerian Authors (Kano State Branch), the Secretary of Poetic Wednesdays Initiative and moderator for Glass Door Initiative’s Poetically Written Prose Contest 2019 and 2020. Naseeba is a graduate of Bayero University, Kano and she’s a columnist for Konya Shamsrumi.