She ran her fingers along their spines.
I don’t get people like you, she said.
People like me? He raised a brow, his thoughts rattling off the various judgements she was drawing from his private space. He rarely let anyone in here, it was barren but he liked to call it minimalist, and he especially disliked when people opened drawers without warning, or peeled back his closet doors. It was like they were peeling away the comfort of his clothes—leaving him exposed.
People who have books that look like this.
Without creases. Without stains. I don’t like borrowing books because I know I’ll return them weathered and aged, she smiled.
People don’t like that.
You have to take care of them, he justified.
But the thing is—she continued, picking up a fresh looking copy of short stories with another small smile playing across her lips like ripples through a pool. A book isn’t meant to be admired as an object. It’s not a centrepiece, it’s an experience. And how many experiences that are good are best when protected, guarded, and preserved? She felt him anxiously inspect her as she inspected his stuff.
Cared for—he corrected her. I like to keep my things in nice condition.
He felt his face getting hot and then felt it getting hotter still, as he assumed her observe this. She was pulling up a curtain on his life, one he had carefully drawn closed.
Why? She questioned, cocking her head to the side slightly as she stared out the window. A woman was shaking out a rug on the balcony that jutted out from her modest apartment. Her brows were furrowed and she went about her daily task, unaware that a set of eyes was resting on her.
He simply shrugged. They last longer when you take care of them, I guess. Then you can enjoy them for longer.
Her smile didn’t waver, not even for a moment.
Would you rather? She asked, drawing closer to him.
The lady on the balcony was hanging the carpet over the railing now. She retreated inside and kept her curtains parted.
He resisted the urge to stumble backwards.
Enjoy something to the fullest. Or enjoy something half as much, for twice as long?
He watched her eyes sparkle and opened his lips to answer.