When I was 12 I used to use them to escape from friendless classrooms and if I didn’t have one in my hand, I would stare out of the window with fierce concentration thinking of all the stories stored in my head and the many imaginary lives I lived through them. If the background chatter ever drew my attention, I didn’t let it on. I think most of my classmates (if they ever thought to look my way) usually saw me sleeping with my head down on my desk or staring out of the window. Books were a better alternative. They made me seem less lonely; they made me less lonely.
Today those books still shield me from life. They wrap me in protective folds that keep the world away from me and me away from the world. They are the gatekeepers to my dreams, who are fiercely determined to keep reality away. I am untested and don’t know the strength of my own will, because I have never pitted it against anything not inside the pages of a good story. My hopes and aspirations have birthed and grown in the soft, edgeless world of no competition, no obstacles. Today I don’t know if I am worth as much as I think I am.
I have run back into their arms so many times. I have turned away from life so many times. If I give them up, I give up my best friends. If I put them away, I put away a part of me that was born so many years ago in that classroom, at that desk by the window.
I’m afraid too much of me is formed by the insubstantial constructs of other people’s imagination. I’m afraid if I step away from them, the pillars holding my character firm atop a foundation of lessons learned through fictional rigours would crumble. I would stand unprepared and weak before a world that cannot be closed and put back on the shelf when I see no happy ending in sight.