40: A Rare Book

40: A Rare Book

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

A Rare Book

A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.

~Franz Kafka

I’m shy. I’ve always been shy. When I was in school I was practically invisible because I hid behind books. If I was reading a book, I didn’t have to try to talk to anyone.

People thought I was cold or unfriendly but I wasn’t. There was nothing I wanted more than a friend but I never felt good enough to have one. I thought I wasn’t pretty enough or smart enough. I didn’t think I was interesting or funny and my family was poor and I had to wear clothes that were handed down from my cousins and everything seemed to be either too big or too small. I was ashamed of the way I looked.

I grew up and got a job and although I worked with some nice people, they weren’t friends, they were coworkers. They were pleasant, but as soon as the store closed for the day, they went home to their families and I went home to my books.

I joined clubs I didn’t really want to belong to and went to lectures at the library that bored me to death. I looked into joining singles’ groups, hiking clubs, yoga classes and I even took classes at the community college. I took two language classes, Italian and Japanese, but I didn’t make a friend.

I must have read twenty books on how to make friends and be popular but nothing seemed to work. I even copied a list out of a book about how to start a conversation and keep it going. I carried the list in my purse so if I met someone and I got tongue-tied, I could look at it. One suggestion was to ask people who they would choose if they were stranded on a deserted island with three people. I never had the courage to ask anyone that question but I had a good answer if anyone asked me, I’d say I wanted to be stranded with a doctor, a chef, and a boat builder. No one ever asked.

I decided it wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own that I was alone. I just wasn’t meant to have a best friend and I’d have to live with it.

One day I’d just gotten out of my car and was walking into the mall when a strange woman hollered at me.

“You have a sock on your back!” she said.

She reached out and pulled a white sock off the back of my black sweater.

“Static cling,” she said as she handed the sock to me. “It’s happened to me before, you never know what might be sticking to your clothes when you take them out of the dryer.”

“Thank you,” I said and shoved the sock into my purse. “I would have been embarrassed if I had walked around all day with a sock clinging to my sweater.”

“No problem,” she smiled. “I’m headed to the bookstore. They are going out of business and everything is seventy percent off.”

“I’m going there, too,” I said.

“Let’s go together,” she said. “I love poetry. I’m hoping to find some books by Emily Dickinson or Robert Frost.”

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep…” I quoted Frost.

“But I have promises to keep…” she answered.

“And miles to go before I sleep…” we said together and laughed.

Linda and I went into the bookstore. We both left with bags of books and Linda suggested we have lunch at the food court. I didn’t have to worry about thinking of something to say because Linda was a talker and had lots of funny stories to tell. She made me laugh and I forgot I was shy. I didn’t even have to ask her the question about being stranded on a deserted island.

Linda and I began discovering things about each other. We both loved poetry and all kinds of books. We liked a lot of the same things and completely disagreed on other things, but it didn’t matter that we didn’t always agree.

I told her how lonely I had been and how hard it had been to talk to people. She said she was sorry I’d been lonely but that some very famous people also had trouble making friends and I wasn’t alone.

She gave me a beautiful plaque that read, “A good friend is like a rare book of which only one copy is made.”

I cried when I read it.

She became my first real friend, because we both loved books and because we made each other laugh. Finally, at the age of thirty-four, I had a best friend.

It was strange. I’d spent years trying to find a good friend and then it was something as simple and as silly as static cling that brought my best friend into my life.

Last Christmas Linda gave me a book of poetry.

I gave her the sock that brought us together.

And we both laughed.

~April Knight

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