rant: when lovers don’t return your books

by Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen

book lending 2

Sometimes I think about my copy of Art Spiegelman’s graphic novel Maus – one of my favourite books ever. It’s sitting on a shelf, or maybe under a bed, in a house I’ve never been to. Maybe it’s half-read, with dog-eared pages. Maybe it’s finished. I have no idea, because I don’t talk to the person whose house it is in. I don’t even really know him. We bonded over comics on Tinder and went on a couple of dates, and he let me borrow Wonder Woman and I let him borrow Maus, and then there were no more dates. I haven’t seen him in at least six months. Maybe I’ll never see him again.

Maybe I’ll never get my copy of Maus back, or maybe it’ll just take a couple of years. Like when I loaned my copy of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals – signed! – to a guy I was seeing, and he promised me he’d read it. We broke up but remained friends, and for two years, every time I saw him he’d groan, “Sorry! I forgot again,” and I wondered if he had lost it. Finally, after a lot of pestering, I got it back. He admitted that he hadn’t even read it.

Maybe Maus is destroyed, like the copy of my teenage self’s favourite book, Nineteen Eighty-Four, that my first boyfriend borrowed when I was 19. When he returned it, it was unrecognisable. The pages were torn and yellow, and I wondered if he’d accidentally flushed it down the loo, then retrieved it with his bare hands and had a little arts and crafts session to put it back together. I bought myself a new copy of Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Maybe I had the right idea when, upon breaking up with a guy I’d been seeing via text (I know, I know), I demanded that he bring the Harry Potter books I’d been forcing him to read back immediately. “I’ll give them back eventually,” he said, and I said, “No, NOW,” because didn’t he know that you can’t get those colourful spine first editions anymore and it’s really not worth the risk of losing the precious books I’d had since I was 11? He brought them back that night. I don’t think he ever finished the series.

I love reading. I spend most of my money on books, and I love sharing them with my friends and having nerdy, heated discussions about what we liked and hated.

But if I’ve learned anything in my life (I have not), it is that I should be choosy with who I allow to access my home library. As it turns out, I’m much more protective of my books than I am of my heart when it comes to dating. I guess that’s what happens when you get burned too many times, and your shelf gets smaller and sadder, and you miss those books like you would your family.

Sure, we can go on dates. You can meet my friends and sleep in my bed. But ladies and gents, you’re going to have to work extra hard for a membership card to the Library of Giselle. And if you ask if you can borrow a book and I say yes, you’ll know we’re for real.

Pretty pic by Tina Sosna.

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