Because today is one of the days custom dictates we eat in the dining room, I just cleared two piles of books off the table. As I reshelved Grace Paley, I came across a man’s phone number on a torn envelope stuffed into one of my Raymond Carvers. The handwriting is mine. Craig. Area code 410, Maryland. I have no memory of him or the number getting.
The other bookmark (same book) is a Barnes & Noble receipt: 08/08/93 – Annapolis, MD – What We Talk About When We Talk About Love – nine dollars – 5% tax – my full visa account number and expiration date – CLERK 047.
I remember CLERK 047. He was tall, too conservatively dressed for my taste in a good employee button-down, but the hair hanging over his cheekbones made him seem interesting.
“What’s your favorite Carver?” he asked. That’s when I noticed his black Chuck Taylors, shoes that indicate any one of the following messages: it is 1952 and I have my high school’s record for most points scored in a game; it is 1970 and I have the keys to Uncle Ned’s Torino; it is 1993 and I work in a bookstore while earning my MFA (which also translates to: I will read to you naked).
Play it cool, play it cool, play it cool. “I like the one about the sofa.”
Fail. Literature fail. Girl, if you want to get an English major, you’ve got to actually read the stuff.
But no one really needs an English major. And human beings end up wanting who they want despite the object’s well-readedness.
The gift that day was the book.
I’ve opened to “Gazebo”. The second paragraph mentions vacancies. Perfect. Unlike Lorrie Moore’s story about a specific incident–which I will not name–which I can’t read because of one of my drafts, I will read this Carver piece that starts out about a couple who takes over as motel managers. And I will read more of Amy Bloom’s Come To Me. And I will finally read King’s summer contribution to Tin House. And I’ll read some Wanda Coleman. And I’ll read another Díaz. And I will savor all the brilliance like three flames prayed over a holiday feast.