“Do you know the one thing I would change about you, if I could?” I asked.
what I would change
I was in bed, naked, and he was standing by the bed. I was touching his tummy and chest–we smiled at each other. “Uh, oh! Get ready to be hurt!” I said.
We laughed. “Are you ready?”
“Yes,” he said.
“Ok. I would change you so you liked reading to me.”
“Ah!’ he said.
“Yeah!” I said. “What do you think?”
“Hmm.” He gave me a look like my prospects were poor.
“Yeah, I really want someone to read to me! How about a page? Would that be ok?”
“Eh, I could do half a page. But that’s a stretch. I could do a paragraph!” he said.
“Mmm, well… That would take forever to read anything!” I said. My spouse has a learning disability of language processing.
Before, he and I would go to my ex’s apartment. That ex would read to me for hours. We would sit in his livingroom, holding hands, and sometimes I would turn the page.
He read me some amazing books! I had forgotten how good a novel could be–I always read nonfiction. A story feels like such an emotional investment. I felt too much already, about regular life. Seemed I couldn’t afford to expend emotional energy on characters.
My spouse was not into the out loud reading. He couldn’t take in the books with his ears. He would hang around, go out to the car. Sometimes he’d bring his own book to read.
Before reading time, my ex would cook. He would make grilled cheese sandwiches with olives and brown mustard. We had salad–I put almond slices on top, which he’d never had before. He made ginger tea every night. I watched him chop ginger. We tended the pot. And he baked–mostly cupcakes, cookies. Sometimes he fed me chocolate ice cream from his bowl. I thought that was love.
I would wash dishes, the dishes of him and his roommates, and feel appalled by how dirty his stove top was, scrub layers of gunk off the white enamel. Rinse the filthy blue sponge, do it some more. He would be taking a shower, doing something for work, or taking his dogs out to relieve themselves.
But this is about reading. I guess I never told anyone what we usually did, me and that ex. The books about the Mexican witches were the very best. But the Earthsea books were amazing too. I didn’t like the beginning, but getting through the first book was worth it. My favorite was The Tombs of Atuan.
I couldn’t help but remember that ex reading to me, and an ex before did also.
We went on numberless camping trips, and he would read to me in our tent by cheap lantern or flashlight. We’d hike in the days, or he would hike as I sat at a lakeshore. In the evenings, we had a fire. Then he read me all the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit.
It was funny because we were grad students doing literature, and Tolkien was a guilty pleasure. Our fluffy diversion, like dessert. Foucault and James Joyce by day, goblins and elves by night.
When I was a kid, my dad read to me. I mean when I was little, before he drank to the point of passing out, every evening. After dinner, he read me and my brother The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. I loved that book, and had weird feelings about that lion. Passion, I guess.
Now as an adult, I think CS Lewis must have had a boner for Jesus, because that’s the feeling I recall, from those books. His muscular body, the way he moved, all that serious dignity. And the death scene, so gruesome and fleshy.
The lion was super sexy! I bet grad students write their theses on this. Erotic Feline Jesusness: How CS Lewis’ Boner for Aslan Caused Me to Have a Boner.
Hahahaha! That’s as funny as it gets, for me. Excuse me as I laugh a lot. Brb.
back to the present
So my spouse and I were in the bedroom, lightheartedly negotiating about something I wished he could give me that he cannot–being read to.
“Maybe I should hire a reading prostitute! What do you think?” I asked.
We were smiling. If someone would just read to me, maybe they wouldn’t need to be a sexworker. They could just be a reader, as if I were blind.
I know audiobooks exist! What I liked best was experiencing it together, feeling together, holding hands the whole time, talking about it. My ex had already read all the books, so he was my guide. He could experience it for the first time again, through me.
He accepted my tears when the book touched a nerve, and he heard my laughter too. I used to wish those books would last forever. He doesn’t live in that apartment anymore. I miss the conifers, and the crunchy rocks we walked on, to get from the street to his door.
I could add reading aloud to my list of ways to love. Please wish me luck in my biblioquest.