I’ve always looked for answers between words, between the pages, between the slowly dwindling book shelves in today’s bookstores. As I walk through Barnes and Nobles this evening, I’m hit by the smell of new books and the underlying smell of coffee. I’m in my element as I stalk the shelves in search of books on blogging, writing, creating.
I’m on a mission for a specific book, yet as I’ve done since childhood the titles of books suck me in until I’m wandering aimlessly throughout the store. Newly released fiction and non-fiction. Self-help. Running my hand across the smooth, cool covers, I feel safe.
Rounding the corner of the religion section, I slow down and glance at a teenager standing in front of the addiction and recovery section. He is dressed in Perry Meridian’s school colors-gold and purple. I imagine him having left basketball practice. His neatly dressed suburban parents are shopping, eating dinner in one of the adjoining outdoor stores and restaurants.
Underneath the shiny surface, someone in his family struggles with addiction. Does he struggle? Or-more than likey- does one of his suburbanite parents struggle with a hidden addiction that only he sees at home?
I’ve stalked the self-help, recovery section for many years. It began when I too was a teenager. In early adulthood it became an obsession. I yearned for the wisdom between the pages. I yearned to understand the dysfunction in my family, but mostly the dysfunction within.
He doesn’t notice me staring at him as he intently glances at the titles. My propensity to stare, however rude, is one of my many traits. It is as though if I stare at someone or something long enough then I can figure out their story, perhaps find a common bond.
I force myself to stop staring and turn the corner walking toward the other side of the store. The fiction section is on my left. Awkward teenagers and book loving adults stand in front of bookshelves, lost in thought. I breathe in the smell of crisp pages, smooth covers, fresh ink.
Throughout my life, bookstores have served as a refuge for me. My mom and grandma loved to shop to the point of what I would label addiction. I spent more time inside of malls then I did truly getting to know my parents. Everything was surface with little underneath.
As I turned ten and eleven, mom allowed me to shop in the bookstore alone while she and grandma shopped. Grandma often came looking for me. I recall her watching me for a moment. I could tell she was watching me out of the corner of my eye, so I continued to stare at the book I really wanted.
I knew if I stared at the book long enough, grandma would ask, “You want it?” I’d say yes. I loved the feel of the small plastic bag containing the soft paperback book. I’d often leave the book in the bag to protect it when I was reading it. I kept my books in immaculate condition, having read them so fast that the pages were barely creased.
As we’d drive away in my mom’s mini-van, I sat in the backseat drowning out their arguing and gossiping. I’d escape.
Later I discovered this was a form of disassociation.
It is what I consider to be one of the healthier ways I’ve disassociated during my thirty-six years.