Just last night a friend of mine told me about this recent survey. The survey revealed that only a small percentage of Americans are reading books for pleasure (they did not count the people who only read the newspaper to catch up on current events or to check their stock prices).

And they were mostly housewives.

This made me ask myself that very same question: When was the last time I picked up a book? The answer made me feel stupid, ugly, and naked. I likened myself to an illiterate person for a moment, since I can't remember the last book I read.

What could have possibly happened to me? Why am I not running to the library on the weekends? I used to get in so much trouble with my parents, when I was a little girl, since I would sneak a flashlight under the covers just to read books at night, instead of sleeping.

Where has that childlike curiosity and thirst for knowledge gone?

I have no acceptable answer for you at this time.

Realistically speaking, I have enough time during the week to down at least one book's worth of information, but here I am, not reading. Not logging on to amazon.com to buy Java in a Nutshell by O'Reilly Publishers. Not going to Barnes and Noble downtown to purchase a Kurt Vonnegut book that I haven't yet read. Not going to the library to check out Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger so that I can read it for a second time.

To me, reading is like excercise. The more you get done, the better you feel about yourself and the healthier you become. So I think should start up again, soon.

I walk down the street, grad student bag slung full over my shoulder. I shift and lug. I take it to work, to class, to bars, to movies, to parties. I stow it in corners, sling it under my chair. I gather broken blood vessels under its weight. I open it up on the bus for just five more minutes. Here they are again.

I am in the corner, over there, with the books. All my books. I am scribbling frantically at the kitchen table, volumes stacked up haphazard beside me. I am wrapped in a blanket on the couch with two books. I can't decide which one to open first.

I am in the bookstore with a fifty dollar gift certificate, staring. I am in the bookstore. I am in the classics section, staring at the green covers of Latin volumes. I am in history, graphic novels, young adult. I am on the floor, sorting through my stack, weighing my options back and forth. I order coffee and monopolize a table. I am all alone, here and here and alone and here.

I keep my hands in my coat, in my pocketsful of paper and pens. My fingers fall easily between the leaves.

I go to the library. I work at the library. I drag my bag (full already) up the stairs. I stash volumes in carrels, sneak back upstairs on my break. I am reading Dante, Monica Furlong, Robin McKinley, Shakespeare, Anne Carson, H.A. Rey, Sir Keith Thomas. I run upstairs for a reference.

In the bread aisle at the supermarket, I stop, dislocated.

Am I having trouble breathing?

I hide at my desk. I hide in the stacks. I hover in the stairwell. I lurk, clutch my prizes to my chest like blood. You come upon me suddenly from nowhere, find me crouching over a page like a mendicant.

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