The cover is scarred and dog-eared, but no matter. I fall on it with delight, hand over my change, squirrel it away to peruse at leisure. Pre-owned or pre-loved but then discarded, I hope to offer it affection in my turn. I scurry home to begin the conversation.
But what’s this I see?
The indelible tattoos of ownership are all over the title story. Neatly ruled lines in red, blue and black disfigure the pages. Glyphs — of hearts, clock faces, asterisks, a cross, even a supine stick figure — patrol the margins. Emphatic verticals hem in selected paragraphs. An ex-lover has sought to control the text, constrain with chains of interpretation, explain what the author meant rather than let her speak her own mind.
I had hoped to form a personal relationship; I’m now confronted with an abused entity. It will be difficult, almost impossible, to form my own impressions, to establish an open dialogue, to enjoy the proffered delights with total innocence.
But then I pause, and reflect. When I’ve had my way will it not be likely that I too will abandon this mistress of the moment? Will I not publicly discuss her strengths and failings? Will I not foist my own interpretation on her thoughts, discuss her form, palm her insights off as my own?
Though I will never mark her with own brands will I not, in my turn, also be an inconstant lover?