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The Reader's Manifesto
By Jessica Malo
I read to escape.
I read so that someone else’s pain entertains me, so that I feel small in comparison, so that my grandeur’s pride is tainted. I read to escape myself, the gray colors of the sky, the sound of the rebuking chimes carving their way through the silence I hold in my hands, fastened by the images the words are creating, fixed in front of my eyes so I see nothing else. I read because I am as afraid as much as the characters are. I read because I am cynical. I read because I see their big picture while they are immersed in the details. I read because I can afford ridiculing them. I read because they grow under my watch, regardless of my warnings. I read because their presence widens my bed, and opens to new scopes my morning, because with them my nights are never again lonely. I read because I have to check on my friends. I read because I need a new shadow. I read because I am losing my voice. I read because there is a new definition of patience, of virtue.
I read because I celebrate myself, because I love all the characters and despise them all the same, because they say what I cannot, what I had not, what escaped me while I was escaping something else. I despise them for robbing me the sanctity of the emotions I thought belonged to me alone. I hate them for sharing my pain, for using the same analogies, for using better analogies, for facing their demons, for being their own demons; I hate them all for being my demons.
I read because I have envy and it flourishes my curiosity, because their names have stood the test of time, reputation and dust, but mine is forgotten before it is kissed by the dust. I read because I envy their silence between the lines, their short pauses that aren’t denied recognition, their words that stretch themselves in my imagination, occupying some of my memories, making them changed.
I read because the train awaits me, because the airplane missed its departure time, because the cab is never noisy enough to make me open my book. I read because the fixed grin of the model on the magazine does not promise me paradise, because all the sex tips Cosmo has for me do not compare to the longing of the words that were separated by a comma. I read because I have to, because I have no choice: not even a choice of what book to read. I read because it haunts me and I haunt it. I read because it is my tranquility and it is my cure. I read to breathe and to see my breath perspire beyond the now; I read because I long to the times when there was no I and for the times when there will be none, no more. I read because reading resembles me, signifies me, elevates me, shatters me, knocks me down, makes me lose it, creeps into my dreams, into my words, into my bath, into the first conscious moment after my awakening, because it bumps me up, because it is saddening yet enervating; it is deadening yet I live more lives, I live everybody’s lives, I live through them, for them, against the blankness of their future, beyond the final scenes of the book.
I read because I have to grow, because books are my wings, because my imagination is more important than my knowledge. I read to tease my ignorance, to retrace what I knew, to bathe in a new light what I thought unchanged. I read because I am greedy and books are a rabbit’s hole to Never Never land. I read because I have my legs dug in the soil but my head in the clouds. I read because it is my duty. I read because I have no time, because I gain time, because reading buys me time. I read to forget, and half way through I change my mind, I read to change my mind and reach a new conclusion. I read because I learn nothing. I read because I do not care that much; because I care too much. I read to laugh, to allow myself the indulgence of speaking loudly to the habitats of the other realms, I salute them in my mornings and bury them down my unconsciousness, they wake me up in my dreams and tell me again what I have failed to see in their distraction. I read because books do not judge people, because they are true to their word. I read because I like lies, sophisticated intentional lies with an aim. I read because music is not enough. I read because I like the sound of the waves when they carry the heroin back to shore, when they wreck a ship and continue their ritual dance. I read because I can smell a blue flower in winter, because the sun burns my face at night, because I like being annoyed by the chattering noise of a party in a book, because I sneak to people’s minds, hearts and bedrooms. I read because I change perspective, because not enough men let me in their hearts. I read because I am lost, because I do not want to be found. I read because I celebrate triumphs, because I smile when the characters smile. I read because of the anguish of their tears. I read because they are free.
I read because I am angry, because books are my vent; they are my therapist that talks instead. I read because I am boringly young. I read because I do not have to. I read because I cannot help it. I read because I can carry the world in my pocket, because I cannot stop wondering, I read because life is sterile.
I read because one life time is not enough.
Jessica Malo was the Fulbright teaching assistant for Florida State University's Arabic department at the Modern Languages and Linguistics from 2012-2013. She has two bachelors in English Literature and Radio-TV from the Lebanese University in Beirut. She has been working for ten years now in teaching, translating, reporting and writing. She has a published book under the title “Folie A Deux” and several poems and articles in major Lebanese newspapers, in addition to a blog.
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