I KEEP the books I own in ziplocks. These books that are sprawled all over my room.
Bare ones, covered ones, the new, and the old. Bought, given, legally stolen, and passed over. Their pages intact or missing, crisp or flaccid, creaseless or dog-eared, torn or taped, highlighted or flanked with post-its.
Some, fresh from the wombs of birthing bookstores, others, shipped and delivered to my doorstep bringing with them the scent of continents unknown, and a few, putrefying on sale, nationally or internationally acclaimed, anthologized or singular gems, bestowed upon me with cursive monikers and inscriptions from the writers themselves.
Yes, I keep my most prized possessions, these books, my books, in ziplocks.
Not that I am mad. Rest assured, I don’t cleave them into nuggets and store them in the fridge the way you associate food with these transparent, sealable contraptions, so please unwrinkle the furrows on your forehead.
You see, I prefer my books raw–printed, not digital. Although I welcome the surge and practicality of digital books, my affinity with the printed word cannot be severed. I keep them here because they are mine, nurturing them the way a doting mother would her child. Well, in most cases.
Ziplocks preserve books in a way plastic covers can’t. If kept unprotected over time, they will face the inevitable: moths, molds, and book-borers. Being a blue-blooded bibliophile, I cannot allow that to happen. I prefer to keep them in their “virginal” state.
And there are other practical reasons for doing so: in case of break-ins, I can hurl them at burglars without having to worry about much damage –to the books, of course.
Also, when traveling, it would make me less of a worrywart. No need to recite novenas throughout the entire flight and invoke the Lord’s angels and saints to watch over my books and keep them from the carnage that befalls other luggage stuff that cold-blooded airline staff recklessly toss about.
And then there are reasons beyond the practical: ziplocking offers a series of reminders.
For instance, the act of sealing would remind me of the rush that enveloped me at first glance of these books on the shelves of my resident bookstores.
The process of meeting them for the first time and handing them over to the cashier in a heartbeat.
The anticipation once they’re finally with me alone: slowly disrobing them of the package, touching their contours, smelling them page by page, flipping them back and forth at my pleasure, until I have finally devoured them whole.
Talk about insurmountable firsts.
Ziplocked books remind me of the relationships I have fostered through the years. The bonds stitched in their spines and the lost loves echoing in their pages. The ones I have forsaken.
All these saunters in me a sigh, but so does the thought that the book in its present form is doomed.
I preserve my books in ziplocks because, like the lives of others, they aren’t mine to keep. This act of preservation has the next upwelling of readership in mind, in the hopes that they too, will know how books once looked, felt and smelled like.
With this minute effort, I hope to leave a piece of me as well. It’s a tall order, but these books have ziplocked me for perpetuity, and as such, I would like for them to survive the purge.
Then again, who knows the future of printed books?
(As published in SunStar Weekend Cebu | June 16, 2013, Metro Cebu, Philippines)