Ever since my return from London, whenever I am even just a wee bit exerted, my heart gets a flashback as it thumps harder in its cavity. I worry that it wants to stop beating for fear of a memory, a fresh wound that threatens to erupt back to reality.
This is the what: I had to run for dear life to catch my plane at Heathrow, with a shoulder bag like a sack of rice, a body on a long sabbatical and a heart bleating and blaring and bound with alarm. I squeezed and bled out every last drop of energy and prayer in me down that fearfully long stretch to the gate. Time slowed enough for me to consider my options if I did get shut out, but went quickly enough to keep me in sheer panic. I still don’t know how I made it. But I did, just before the waiting area was sealed off. THANK GOD. I think I did my heart some proper damage. Couldn’t speak, could hardly breathe. Started coughing up a lung and only stopped gasping for air after the flight took off.
And this is the why: all that hoary horror happened because of a stupid pile of books. Yes, WH Smith’s 4-for-the-price-of-3 offer nearly cost me a flight and my pitiable life. In trying to figure out the best possible combination for the 4 stinkin’ books (including asking the not-extremely-knowledgeable shopgirl for Jonathan Safran Foer, so now I’m sick of him too), I’d lost track of time, only to find “GATE CLOSING” blinking at me when I was done. My insides turned cold and still, then all I could do was RUN.
In case you’re interested, the books I nearly died for were the latest diaries published by Michael Palin, Homicide by David Simon, Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel and Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín. In the usual circumstances, a glorious haul. But as I scampered down the walkway with my sack of rice and a bouncing pile of books I didn’t even dare to spare time stuffing down the sack, I could not help but feel the ridiculousness of my situation. It wasn’t worth it. Not in this day and age. No, books are not worth dying for. (Would you die to preserve the Internet though?)
So maybe my ‘true value of books’ moment has come. That watershed when henceforth I will no longer treasure a book for being a book. (I will always remember LLP’s retelling of her ‘true value of books’ moment — when a publisher she worked for consigned their entirely new, entirely respectable stock to the fires of Gehenna in order to protect their brand/copyright/some-such-thing.) Or maybe I’ll stop being such a deliberate fool and start wearing a friggin’ watch when on holiday.