She contained a new, fizzy, unshorn rendering of the same story, told a hundred times in a hundred other serifs and sans, in hybrids and hieroglyph, only hers was fresher and more original. She brimmed with newness, waiting to be discovered, but her first borrower barely skimmed her, then used her as a coaster and returned her overdue. The second read her twice, forward, then backward, and wrote in her margins, folding back her covers so her face met her ass and she remembered distantly a thing called yoga and even more distantly, a thing called sex. As he read her, she wondered, "Is he looking at me or just the text, and what's the difference anyway?" There, their separation ceased, then reversed, her pages taken from her, lifted out of reach until they were no longer hers--until she was theirs. The reader shut the book around her, enforcing makeshift night. She tried to close her eyes, but found them lidless and immense. In the dark of covers closed, she read her own body, committed her limbs to memory, counted the spaces between body text and headings.
The night went on forever, long enough to brown the pages, longer still to fade her text, and the next hand to lift her didn't open her for air before tucking her into hiding, to sweat within his sleeve. Out of the library, he undressed the volume's outsides and rearranged its innards, wrote his name across its fore edge, changed said to sad on every page, scribbled out her eyes and teeth, branded her bloodied preface, then taped her back together and sold her for a song. A pencilled price announced her story's value, low, lower than usual because she was worn. "I've been tattooed," she thought. "Names, notes. Scars, memory, and cost." At this stage, she became her dollar sign, became her number, once again, became herself.
She sat ignored on a stack of new arrivals until she'd forgotten her arrival and forgotten being new. Dust accrued across the book's cover, eventually encouraging a college student to use his finger to write in the dust, read me. She followed this advice, assessed her dingy mortality and read herself as the preface to a graying, antiquated text. Occasionally, she remembered being a young woman, knowing a little, working a lot. Often, she thought about being a young book, knowing it all, all at once, that empowering, enlivening rush of knowledge. But there she was: handwriting. Not the affectionate love notes that newlyweds once penned or even anything as compelling as a death threat, she seemed destined to live a mundane truth. She couldn't even read her own story anymore.
by Dubeth Ramferi Cortez