The first day we met, I described myself as a reader, but she never called herself a writer. Instead, she would always say she “had writtenâ€ and would pull down her collar or roll up her sleeves and show people. They would catch a paragraph or two as it ticked across her chest or revolved around her forearm. Her hands and face remained un-marked; every other body part was fair game, parchment awaiting ink. The scrolling tattoo was connected to an implant in her skull, allowing her to add and edit as she saw fit. Her novel was about a girl with a scrolling tattoo of a novel about herself, her life and loves; it wasn’t the deepest subject matter, but she had a brilliant turn of phrase.
I flatter myself that I read more of it than anyone. This probably has less to do with her willingness to be gazed upon while naked, than it has to do with my being a compulsive reader. I was very easily distracted when we had sex, for example. But having a girl who not only had written, but also was a book (a book!) was too good to pass up.
That was, until, he showed up. She called him the “The Reader,” and he was an obnoxious new character in the world that was scrawled around her body. The Reader arrived innocuously enough. We were watching TVâ€”or rather, she was watching TV. I was reading the words that poked out of her exposed middriff. And there he was, circling lasciviously around her belly button. A man, close to my description, introduced himself to the main character of her novel as “a reader.”
“Is this supposed to be me?”
“Who?” she said, straightening up and pulling her shirt down. “Is who supposed to be you?”
“You know who I’m talking about,” I said. “The Reader.” She feigned innocence and crossed her legs in such a way that her right leg stuck out from below her skirt. Marching along her calf was a part I hadn’t read yet. I let the matter drop.
But The Reader showed up again. And again. It started to get unsettling. It wasn’t so much what he did, it was that he didn’t do anything. All he did was read the novel on the main character’s body, a passive presence in her life. It was disturbing.
“Is this how you see me?” I asked, several times. There may have been a few times when I said this that were perhaps louder than necessary.
“You’re reading too much into it,” was always her answer.
When The Reader accused the main character of writing about him, I about near lost it. I held up her own arm as proof as it circled by, but she merely shrugged it off. When The Reader started yelling at the main character, and forcing her behind closed doors, crying tears he would never see, I knew our relationship was over. The Reader had ruined it.
I let her keep the television.
I saw her again, a few weeks later. She smiled at me, and we acted as old friends. But then The Reader showed up again, as brief description of what had happened to him since slowly crawled across her cleavage. Apparently, he had contracted prostate cancer, Asian bird flu and some sort of flesh-eating virus, as well as now taking it Thai Lady-Boy style from an ex-con named “Bubba.”
We don’t talk much anymore.