Book end. A thing you place on a shelf to gently support those lovely pieces of fiction and nonfiction you’ve collected.
Book ends. A pair of them. Balance. Symmetry. Someone once said, a good use for fruitcake.
Book’s end. A sad realization that at some point, your lovely piece of fiction or nonfiction will terminate. Conclude. Expire.
But those of us who love books continue putting ourselves in the situation of an always ending story. Something that could inspire. Something that could mar our spirits with sadness. With each turn of the page, we learn more and more about how the work influences us. We understand better what the significance is. We can better guess what is next and why.
Or do we?
I have a confession. I skip to the end of the book. Almost every time. In fact, when I was studying The Bible, Revelation was my favorite chapter. It has interesting content and message but also it’s the end. Other examples-Ender’s Game, Speaker for the Dead (skipping to the end was extremely confusing with this work), Hunger Games, Divergent, Animorphs, Redwall, etc.
Sometimes I just peak at the last page. Other times, I’ll skim the last few. And even fewer times, I will begin at the start of the last chapter. And when my curiosity isn’t satisfied… I Google and use Wikipedia. (Sometimes while watching movies, I’ll Google it before the end of Act 1).
All my friends hate me for this. They don’t understand me. Why I do it. How it doesn’t ruin the experience for me. For me, literature, film, television, etc. is more about the process of reading or watching rather than the outcome of the final chapter. This is why I can watch films like “Good Will Hunting”, “Donnie Darko”, “Perks of Being a Wallflower”, and “The Internship” over and over and over again while still being able to enjoy it. I can allow myself to relish in the singular experience that occurs at the present moment even though I may know what will eventually happen. Knowing this doesn’t make the experience any less robust for me. I’m still sad (and troubled) at the end of Donnie Darko. I’m still inspired at the end of Good Will Hunting. Relieved (yet anxious) at the end of Perks. Still overjoyed and amused at the end of The Internship.
My neurosis extends to some interesting extremes. One time my friends and I were marathoning seasons of “How I Met Your Mother”. We just ended Season 2 and decided to begin Season 3 the next day… so of course, I stayed up all night watching Season 3. And my friends ne’er knew naught but the watching experience we shared. Until a few days later when I let the secret out. Then they were furious. And I wish I could have helped it. Had a little more self control. But these stories… these fictional experiences. They draw me in. And I am enraptured in what they have to say. Then I wait for the next page. The next episode. The next scene. And when the book ends. It’s over. And although I knew it was coming. For 350 pages. 130 minutes (or less for TV). That last page, minute, scene, are special. Because they are imprinted in my consciousness when it ends. They mull about my mind until I at last can muster energy to focus on something anew. And some of those endings are more robust than others. But they all signify just that. An end.
And I guess that’s okay. You know, I decided to leave my job in December. And 5 months later, I’m reaching my book’s end. I knew what the ending was going to be like. I mean, I knew what was going to happen. If I were to ponder in December what May would be like, it would be very similar to the May I’m experiencing now. And yet, my May isn’t any easier to cope with. It’s not less exciting, sad, anxious, relieving, amusing, or inspiring simply because I knew it was going to happen. It simply just was.
2.5 days left are like the 2.5 pages left in a novel. And within these 2.5 discrete periods of time, a multitude of opportunities still exist. An infinite or undefined amount of scenes could occur.
So instead of just sitting in solitude on my sofa. Instead of turning into an immobile, non-participatory observer on this life. Instead of being a mere book end. I will enjoy, cherish, and treasure these penultimate moments.
Until the book ends.