I was already creating this post in my mind while reading the synopses of the paperbacks in National Bookstore at Robinsons Pioneer. Without any feeling of remorse I paid the cashier my hard-earned 1250 pesos (27 USD), for the three books I bought: A collection of stories and essays by Jorge Luis Borges called Labyrinths, a novel called Love in the Time of Cholera (which I have already read while I was studying in the university but left my copy to my sister who is now studying English in college) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and an anthology of readings on Ernest Hemingway’s works.
All the books, after I finished reading them, are the dirtiest, the most disfigured, and the most heavily annotated I’ve seen, that is, if I bought them myself, not those that were borrowed from libraries, of course. I write on the margin of each page my commentaries and questions that can be profound or shamefully stupid, insightful or carelessly mundane. My eldest sister, who is my opposite when it comes to the kinds of books we read and the way we handle them, often have words on the appearance of the books after I’m done reading them. She’s the kind who carefully covers them with plastic cellophane and places them neatly in racks, not on dusty tables where they are stacked on top of each other in a tospy-turvy manner as I usually do to them. She said I am very harsh with my books. Maybe I am.
It never occurred to me to own any of my books because I often leave them behind whenever I move places. I marvel at the possibility of changes they will bring to the lives of their next readers, of the thoughts the new readers will have on the book’s previous reader. What I only carry with me are their substance, their spirit. The multiplicity of these entities disallows us to own a book. No one owns them.
The books I bought from secondhand shops, and there are a lot of them, carry with them the mystique of their existence in the hands of their former owners. What could have they been thinking while reading the words printed on the white paper? Did they read the book in a coffee shop while waiting for their lovers, riding the train on their way to work, or while inside the toilet defecating? These books have stories other than the stories printed in them. And I want to share this experience to other readers, who in the process of reading the books, will also unknowingly add their own stories.
So tonight, sacrificing a fine dinner in a fancy restaurant, I am folding the first few pages of Borges’s Labyrinths (this will make them last longer) and starting to read the first few pages. Doing so, I am also leaving the imprints of my humble existence.