The book had been sitting on the shelf for a long long time. Its dust jackets were faded and worn, and when he held it in his hand and opened it for the first time, its cracked spine seemed to sigh, as if it had been waiting for just this moment to exhale.
The man felt the book’s loneliness and saw the places where it had shed tears. He saw the careless rips and minute breaks that had been painstakingly taped whole. He felt the jagged edges of pages torn and knew grief for all that’s been lost and all that he would never know.
Meanwhile, the book glowed from the pleasure of simply being seen. Every crinkle of the yellowed pages was a burst of enthusiasm, as if the book was saying, no, shouting “hello, you don’t know how long I’ve been waiting for you.”
The book knew it needed to be cautious. It had felt hope like this before. Other hands have read but didn’t see, or had seen but not understood. Many more have simply not bothered to finish or pick it up at all.
It takes a piece of you each time, all that disappointment and rejection, and it becomes harder and harder to hope. So the book let itself go. It stopped making the effort.
The bright colours of the covers gradually dimmed, and the book was pushed further and further into the dark corners of the shelf. The other, shinier and newer books all found owners whilst it remained hidden and guarded, thinking that it was better to be alone than to lose anymore of itself to the wrong hands.
But the years passed and the loneliness set in, for what use is a book, really, without a reader? Like music with no lyrics, spring without the lark, Christmas without presents, and a lifetime of nights with no day in sight.
The book started to think that maybe, just maybe, some things are worth risking it all for. By this time it would have given anything and everything to be read and to tell its story at least one more time, just to remember what it felt like to do more than just exist.
When it felt his hands along its spine, callused from years of honest work and labour, from all the difficulties and ups and downs of life, it felt hope once again, and it was unbearable, like drowning in the waters with the surface just ever so out of reach.
Sometimes hope is the most painful thing, more painful than a thousand pinpricks from a burning needle.
The man leafed through the pages, his heart growing heavier at every turn, for he saw through the written words and paragraphs to the truth that laid just beneath the surface, and he thought it to be the most beautiful thing in the world.
It was a story he would finish and read over and over again.
So he tucked the book in the crook of his elbow and made a place for it in his own home. One was never seen without the other again, their lives so intertwined that neither was recognisable without the other.
The book changed the man in numerous little ways, and in it he found the pieces of himself that he didn’t know were missing. In turn, he wrote new chapters in place of the book’s missing pages and brought colour back into it’s life.
Some people thought all that effort was wasted, and pointless, when he could just return it and buy something new, a book that was less scarred and damaged.
“I love it,” he replied when asked. “Just as it is, and for all that we could be together.”
“It won’t last.” They said. “This book will put you through the wringer. It demands too much, and it needs too much.”
“I love it anyway.” The man said simply.
“What can it possibly have to offer?” They wondered.
And walking away from all the doubts and the hate, he answered, “More than you’ll ever know.”
For both man and book knew what they didn’t, that it was the imperfections that spoke of the long journey from here to there that made them if not perfect, then at least perfect for each other.
They knew that there was nothing more precious than being seen and being loved for all that you are, even the pieces of yourself that you find ugly. No one goes through life unblemished, everyone has scars and is damaged in their own way. You choose to love them anyway.
After a time and when he was finally ready, the man happily folded himself into the pages of the book, giving up one life for another, one that was filled with endless laughter, kind understanding, passion, and a love that only grew with time.
With the passing of the years, they wove a new story, a story of us, and we, and them. Soon their story became the stuff of legends, and fairy tales. It lived on long after they were gone, in other stories and other books, and in other lonely souls all yearning to be found.
For theirs was a timeless story of hope, of belief, and of wonder. Most of all, whatever iterations their story took, even as they added the castles and pixie dusts and wishing upon stars, always it was a story of a love that sees, and understands, and despite the rips and tears, chooses everyday to love anyway.