Jeanne’s new Tinder match wanted to have a “reading date.” Which basically meant he wanted a cheap date. Netflix and chill was too expensive, she guessed.
She didn’t expect his apartment to be a goddamned library.
“These are my roommates,” said her date, Fergus. He gestured vaguely around the room. Jeanne worried he had imaginary friends, or hidden cats, but then she realized he was talking about his books. Which amounted to imaginary friends.
She really could pick a winner.
It was as though the walls of Fergus’s apartment were outright carved into shelves, since Jeanne couldn’t see any non-book-covered wall in the place. Piles of paperbacks were stacked on his coffee tables, piled up next to his sofas, gracing every available counter top. He was a collector, she guessed.
As though he had read her mind, Fergus said, “I’ve read them all.”
Jeanne stifled a laugh. She couldn’t imagine someone having the time to read this much.
“I make time,” said Fergus. “I’ve been reading since I was two. And I’m very quick. It’s not like reading words for me. It’s like absorbing info at the speed of thought. Like the words are floating right into my brain. I sometimes can’t turn the pages fast enough.”
“Listen,” said Jeanne. She tried to think of an excuse to get him to order a pizza, or just kiss her already. Yeah, he was a little off, but he was a Tinder date. She just wanted a fun night. Reading wasn’t part of her plan, even when Fergus texted the words, “Reading date.”
“I do listen,” said Fergus. He picked up a book from his kitchen table. “This is brand new. Just came out, just bought it. Any book I haven’t read is a very special book.” He opened the book, thumbed through pages for a few minutes. Jeanne wasn’t sure what she was supposed to be looking at.
Eventually she said, “Well?”
“That’s how far I’ve read.”
“You don’t believe me.”
Jeanne shrugged. She didn’t want to antagonize the guy. She wanted to flirt with him, but maybe a better idea would be to run the hell away.
Fergus gave Jeanne the book.
“Ask me what’s on a page. Pick a page.”
Some kind of magic trick, Jeanne thought. Must do this for all his dates. She really didn’t need a song and dance. Oh well. Might as well play along.
“–knew that the stranger would cry if she went on. Sarah stopped talking. She watched the trees pass by the window of the train and breathed, thinking about home. After a moment, she could hear the stranger weeping–”
“Okay, you’re right. You got it.”
“Pick another page.”
“You think I memorized the book, or that I have photographic memory.”
Jeanne really didn’t care which.
“Neither is true. Books are telepathic communication. One idea, formed in the mind of a writer, transferred to the mind of a reader. I just don’t need to do the actual reading. Dragging my eyes across the words. Listen.”
“I should probably–”
And Fergus held the open book before Jeanne. At first, there was nothing. Jeanne tried to read the words, but Fergus said to stop. So she stopped.
A moment later, she heard a voice. Not heard. She thought a voice. The book was speaking to her. And it was weeping.
Today’s three prompt categories were, “A special book,” “An inanimate object with feelings,” and, “A cheap date.”
Did this one with a writing group. Right now!