Sunday 25 March 2012

How to read a book

On the bus, head leaning on the vibrating window.

On the late bus, hurtling over the Auckland Harbour Bridge on your way home from university.

Home sick from school, relishing the opportunity to lie in bed and read all day.

Sitting at the end of the wharf, legs dangling over water, seagulls squawking, the smell of dead fish.

On a plane, with your elbows carefully tucked inside the armrests.

Sprawled across the backseat of a stuffy car in a department store parking lot while your parents shop for furniture.

Early evening in deep summer, lying on a camp bed in a canvas tent, listening to rain saturate everything.

On your front in bed, chin supported by cupped hands, your hardback supported by a pillow

Beside a hospital bed, feet propped on another chair.

When you have turned down an invitation to be sociable, without a single regret.

In your father’s car on family holidays, the smell of peppermints and plastic.

On autumn mornings in the overgrown backyard of a Kingsland flat, sitting on a flimsy wooden chair, drinking tea and wearing your grandfather’s dressing gown.

On a chair you’ve dragged into the last of the summer sun coming through a window, with apples and honey sandwiches.

Overtly, in unexpected and provocative places (parties, conferences, street protests).

On a television set when you’re 17, dressed as a member of the town militia.

In waiting rooms, only half able to pay attention.

On an unmade bed, while you wait for the sheets to dry outside.

At the beach, sand between the pages, sunglasses in the car so you have to squint with one eye.

Under the table at extended family gatherings.

In the bath, listening to rain on the corrugated iron roof.

On blankets, in the boot of a station-wagon, in the carpark of the cattle yards in Hamilton, during a livestock auction.

On the stairs, when you should be doing housework.

On a hillside, near a monkey puzzle tree, within earshot of beehives, thinking about leaving home for university.

Over dinner by yourself, the first time you travel for work, with a deep sense of contentment.

Curled against the warmth of a sleeping body in the early morning.

On long and short car trips. As an adult, you will mourn losing the ability to read in a moving car.

On the sidelines of a cricket game, breaking your concentration in rhythm with the rounds of applause and choruses of groans.

Sitting in front of the sliding glass doors, waiting for holiday rain to stop.

Lying in front a fireplace, rolling around in quadrants (back, right side, front, left side) as you progressively overheat.

In a nest of hay bales, while your farmer-father tinkers in the shed.

By candlelight.

Huddled against an electric heater in a drafty flat. Close enough to feel the warmth, but distant enough not to burn your legs.

Under a tree, sitting on pine needles. You’ve been looking forward to doing this all day, and you have built this romantic notion of what it’s going to be like in your head. It turns out to be really fucking uncomfortable.

On a couch, sun behind you, feeling your hair heat up until stroking it is almost like petting an animal.

In airports, sticky and smelly – stickier and smellier than the floor, which is why you feel okay about lying on it right now – with your head cradled on your bag, only you can’t really say ‘cradled’, because it appears you only packed squares and rectangles for this trip.

When you should be paying attention to a lecture, but you’ve just discovered the wonders of the upstairs sales room at the Otago University book shop.

Drunkenly, too late at night, in hopes that returning to your routine now will make the morning gentler on you.

Hungover, seeking solace.

In a half-finished room in a house undergoing seemingly endless renovations, with the snuffly smell of old sawdust in your nostrils.

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