I had an interesting job once. First half of my day was concerned with production and warehouse actions. The second half, I was sequestered in an office-cube concerned with logistics, paperwork, and billing. It was during those evening hours in the office-cube, after the mad scramble to get it all stacked, counted, packed, and shipped, that I fed my addiction. I was glued to a book. I couldn’t put it down. I stowed it in file cabinet and peeked at it constantly because you did NOT want to be caught with anything on your desk other than desk work. Right now I can’t remember which Anne Rice novel it was, more’s the pity. It was either The Mummy or The Witching Hour. Either way, something was happening on those pages, it was all unfolding, leaving me behind, and I had to know what was going on! Every time a stack of invoices had to print, I read the book with my arms dangling in the file cabinet, gleaning words, hoping to catch up on what was going on without me, looking over my shoulder.
My spouse will attest to my impatience, my inability to close the book, set it aside and get a good night’s sleep. It will be there, waiting for me when it’s time. Yeah, as if. I admit my New York tendencies like standing before the microwave waiting for leftovers to heat up, vibrating, and copping to the phrase, “Hurry! I don’t have all minute!” I recognize my impatience. I laugh knowingly at my behavior, a symptom of something that I recognize and try to shake off better than my Dad did. Anyway. It’s tough to be in the bowels of the night, red numbers of the digital clock counting down minutes you have before you really have to put that book down and get a few minutes sleep–work tomorrow. Three chapters away, I peek at the end of the book because I have to know that my heroine survives this night. Or if she succumbs. I read the end of the book like an addict in an alley so I can get through the day and fill in the rest at leisure, because to do otherwise my heart might explode. “She couldn’t sleep without knowing,” said her silly epitaph.
I bought a pile of books, and it is tempting to read them in succession, all at once. I have the ability to do so but, interestingly, I have not. I’m taking my time with them because digestion, assimilation, means more to me now than the hungry girl I was. I read “The Handmaid’s Tale,” but not really. I read the fleshed out Cliff Notes story way back before I understood what female means. So many years have passed, so many changes (or things that stayed unchanged.) One can’t read “Women Who Run With Wolves” and ignore our ancient mother’s tales… or Margaret Atwood.
I approached “The Handmaid’s Tale” as I would any story I felt was important, reading it when I was calm and focused. Seemed like it took me a long time to get halfway through the book, remembering next to nothing about it, so every page was new. I read the story between the “life” things. I got halfway through and felt that alarmist urge creeping in: “Read it all now, it’s all happening, will she live or die?” I made a pact with myself to settle all the paperwork that languished on my desk, and once that was done, I would spend the day or however long it took to finish the story. A double gift.
There were several endings I foresaw for June. Yes, I call her June and not her assigned name. I needed to know what fate had in store for her, as if my own fate was tied to hers. Would she succumb and remain a faithful servant of Gilead? Would she commit suicide, or burn down the house where she lived and kill them all? Would her indiscretions be discovered, and what awful price would she pay? This is the first time in a long time I let a book go. I let it all happen without me. I read each page consecutively, patiently, not skipping to the end because I couldn’t bear to live without knowing. Probably everyone wouldn’t think this is a big deal. Everyone puts down their books (if they read) and sleeps at night, not worried about Offred. I finished the book yesterday, right in its time, and it gives me another lifetime of things to think upon.