“Have you ever read a book that you wish would never end?” she asked me. “You get to the last few pages and you’re afraid to check exactly how many pages are left, but you know it’s going to be over soon. You start to reread a few sentences from where you really are in the book. It feels like your heart is breaking every paragraph closer to the end. Have you ever felt like that?”
“I can’t say I have,” I said.
I had. I felt the same way every time she talked to me. I could listen to her read the dictionary. But I never told her. I was too afraid of finding out exactly what I was or wasn’t to her.
“That’s sad,” she said. “Everyone should get to feel that at least once in their life. Sometimes I cry harder simply because I finished the book than I do if the ending is sad. Every end of a book is sad to me simply because I know it’s over. Then I repeat the cycle all over again, with another book. Battered Wife Syndrome, man.”
“Battered Wife Syndrome usually ends with the abused killing the abuser though. Not the other way around. And I’m pretty sure it’s Battered Person Syndrome.”
“Well, it’s definitely a cycle of abuse and reconciliation. And it is all my fault.”
“Like this one book, man,” she continued. “This one book, I swear I got to the end of it, but it was missing the last page or section or something. I read the whole book. It took me weeks, but the ending was torn out. Someone actually ripped out the page. Can you believe that? I cried to days. I couldn’t find the book anywhere either.”
“I’d have thought you’d like that,” I laughed. “You never have to finish the book. No ending, no tears. You can make up your own ending.”
“That’s not funny,” she said. She was serious now. “The whole book you’re waiting to find out whether or not this girl even remembers this guy she was once in love with. I mean, she hadn’t seen him in like a decade, right? But this guy, he loves her. He still loves her, I mean. They had to move away from each other though for some reason. It’s been a while since I read it, so cut me some slack on not remembering all the little details. But he still gets nostalgic if he sees her name anywhere. Like, if he’s driving and there’s some street sign that happens to have her name on it, like ‘Aurora Ave’ or something, he can’t stop thinking about her for days. That wasn’t her name though. So he finds out that she’s actually moved back to her hometown, which happens to be the same one he moved back to, and the same one they fell in love in of course. But he looks different and he’s scared about that. Cause in his mind she hasn’t changed at all, you know? In his mind, she still looks like eighteen or nineteen or however old they were when they fell in love. She’s still gorgeous is what I mean. So the guy stays up all night writing this letter to her about how he never should have left home when he did, how he wishes they’d never left each other to go off and do their own things, and how he wants to meet up and talk about what each other’s been up to, you know? Date-type stuff. This is all the last ten or twenty pages, need I remind you. I didn’t count the specific number. And of course, this moment has been hyped-up for the last few hundred pages, shifting from his point of view to hers and back again. So I get to what I think is the last page. I’m scared. I’m nearly crying simply because the book is about to be over. Before I know it, he’s walking down the street. The crosswalk shows that white walking guy thing. I’m hardly paying any attention to what page I’m on too. He sees her and she waves. She’s happy, he knows that. And then before I know it, I’m at the bottom of the last page. The sentence doesn’t even finish. It just says, ‘And then he heard a sound that ’”
Her face was wet. She was nearly crying just describing the book.
“Well, it kind of feels like—”
“Don’t even say it,” she interrupted. “I cried for weeks. I lied. Days. But I still just wish I knew what happened. Did she still love him the way he loved her? Cause the book, when it was told through her POV, was always ambiguous. She could have gone either way. But he loved her.”
“Did she really still look the same as he remembered though? Like, did it describe her?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. She was still gorgeous. At least that’s what it said in the book.”
“Why don’t you just find out what book it was? You could find out in a matter of seconds.”
“Because I don’t want it to end,” she was crying now. Real tears. “I mean, I want to know what happens, but at the same time, I still have the story in my head. He’s permanently on his way to meet the person he loves. Isn’t that the best part of being in love? The anticipation? The fear that it may be unrequited?”
“It is,” I said. And I sat back and listened to her some more, hoping she’d never stop talking.