Hello, my name is Pete and I’m a book addict.
Like a junkie looking for a fix, I prowl the streets, wallet in hand, ducking into every store marked “Used – Rare – Out of Print.” I tell myself, “I’ll just browse. What harm is there in looking?” A few minutes later, “Just one. One book. Then I’ll leave.” Hours pass. Baskets and tote bags fill. My wallet thins.
I’ve tried to quit. I moved halfway around the world to a country where English books are rare and, thus, not a temptation. Yet with scarcity of supply comes a rise in prices. I pay more for my fixes. Sure, I clean myself up, sometimes for months at a time. I become contented, happy even, with the books I already own. I look at my bookshelf with pride, thinking “There’s so much here, so many stories. There’s no need for more.”
And then I falter. I return to the small towns of the northeastern United States. Used book sellers on every corner, a Barnes and Nobles in every strip mall, a flea market or garage sale every Saturday and Sunday. Like an alcoholic in a liquor store, I am helpless to resist. Books I’ve already read get thrown into the collection – “It only costs $1.25 and the cover is different from the copy I already own, I really need a new copy anyway!” The shame is crippling, yet I continue.
I’ve alienated friends and family. I drag them from store to store with hollow promises of “5 minutes, that’s all I need.” They trust me, desperately wanting to believe. Yet, I invariably disappoint them – they wait for me by the check-out, sometimes for hours. I have become unwelcome on many a shopping trip.
My pile of books grows precariously high. I find myself rationalizing, making excuses. “I don’t really need a new pair of pants,” or “My airfare baggage allowance back to China is 100 pounds – I can use half that on books.” I know they’re excuses, but they help me cope.
At nights I stare at my contraband, admiring the covers and thinking about which one I might read next. And always….always….thinking about my next fix.