A few weeks ago I checked out three books from the library. Now, I know that library books should probably be handled only while wearing protective gloves, because you never know when someone with a finely honed sense of humor rubbed the books against his sweaty ass or placed his member between their pages in order to satisfy a base need to somehow get back at the librarian who rebuffed him again, but I still like the library because the books are, like, free ‘n’ stuff. And I’ll take my chances.
I also like it because, despite the possibility of someone actually “frotting” a book or using its pages as the bread in a masturbatory “meat” sandwich, I like imagining the other people who have read the book before I have. I wonder where they read it (oh god no, on the toilet? on the subway? at the dentist’s office? in a diner?). How they read it (lounging, feet up? standing up at a podium? hiding in the file room at work, pretending to file a stack of yellowed correspondence?). Why they read it. If they liked it. If they said, “Why the hell would anyone even print this dreck?”
And why they felt compelled, in some instances, to use a pen to highlight certain passages in books they did not own, thus drawing my attention needlessly to words I would not have considered important but now, because some stranger saw them fit to highlight, I now had to give a second, third, and fourth thought.
So, anyway, stuck between the pages of one of the three books I’d taken out (“My Life As A Man” by Philip Roth) was Guest Check Number 309558:
“1 ER”. I’m savvy enough to interpret that as “1 eggroll”. (It could be, of course, “eggplant ravioli”, but I doubt it.) CK garlic. I take that to be “garlic chicken” and not Calvin Klein’s latest innovative fragrance. Both reasonably priced. An extra dollar for … what? Couldn’t be tax, because, my calculator tells me, that would mean the tax was 11.25%. Delivery charge? Maybe. And what is “S.B.A. 647 x43945”? Oh, will anyone ever know?
On the reverse side, the person must have been figuring out sales tax of 7%, which instantly compelled me to think, “Philadelphia”, where the sales tax is 7%. New York City is 8.625%. So the person (a girl, I think, judging by the handwriting) took this book out of the New York Public Library, carried it to Philadelphia, and, as she turned its pages, enjoyed her chicken with garlic and eggroll. Dinner alone in a hotel room? And why alone? In which hotel?
Being the Nancy Jew that I am, I even sniffed the stain (now there’s a sexy few words if ever I heard them), hoping to get a faint whiff of garlic. (But don’t worry. I didn’t taste it. I mean, it could have been chicken, and I don’t “do” chicken.)
I wanted to call the library and have someone run a check on everyone who ever checked out the book. “I must know the identity of the girl who, alone in her hotel room in Philadelphia, slumped sadly over her greasy eggroll and garlic chicken, was figuring out the sales tax on the cheap teddy she’d just bought because she thought she was charged too much! Did her secret married lover ever make it to the hotel? Wasn’t he going to treat her to dinner? Or had she ordered the cheap Chinese late at night, after realizing he was just not going to show up?”
But I didn’t.
Still, I wish I knew. I really wish I knew.
P.S. The splotch wasn’t garlic. I did a DNA test here in my lab, and it turns out it’s BLOOD. The blood of a murdered married lover.