I am a text addict.
Oh, how much I love to run my eyes across lines of black inked letters,
suckling on their meaning, letting free their ideas, completely lost in
their timeless world. I canít stop. I read constantly, often with a
half-dozen books, magazine articles and journal articles coursing through my
mind at once. On the couch I may be reading a book, but in the bathroom itís
magazines and journals. During any moment of waiting, I grab whatever is
nearby and read. My eyes are always focused close, and moving left to right
in phrase steps followed by smooth returns at the end of each line. My lips
donít move. I am not a tyro.
I do not stop even when I am eating. I have learned to
hold open a book with my teacup strategically placed. If not a book while
eating, then a photocopied journal article; a nice choice because they lay
flat. In my sight right now I can count five books laying open or parted
with paper at the point of my departure. This is not to mention the several
magazines folded open on the coffee table. Or the shelves of books begun,
but not finished because another book hooked me, and then another.
Text is more powerful, far more powerful than opium
(which I have tried, largely because I read inspiring books by Baudelaire,
Cocteau, Burroughs, De Quincy, and several contemporary writers). Nothing
works with me like text. Small point, medium leading, thin pages. I cannot
afford my habit, so I buy my books used, often at library book sales. The
other addicts are there, and they are despicable. Not simply because they
are set to snap up the book I want, but also because we are an ugly group:
either thin and pastry-dough pale, or obese, smelly, unkempt and
out-of-style. Clutching empty sacks and boxes into which we pack the books
we feverishly grab. Text addicts all, but yet no one intervenes to stop our
Every text is an escape into a utopia of the mind. I
inject my drug directly, as do all text addicts. Words pass from the page
into the mind, a speed-of-light infusion straight into the cerebellum. The
blood-brain barrier is completely bypassed, completely evaded. The effect is
instantaneous. A little just makes me want more, and more.
I have been a text addict since the age of two. Bedtime
stories were my gateway drug, my first pusher, Dr. Seuss. But then it seemed
so innocent, so harmless, and so enjoyable. Indeed, my own parents
encouraged my habit and, as I grew older, schoolteachers endorsed my
proclivity, allowing me to sit on the edge of the playground and read, while
my classmates bounced balls and swung from bars. But, in those days and at
that age, it really was more wholesome.
I was never told that I would go blind. I had, of course,
noticed that my eyes were often bloodshot, but I became accustomed to the
feeling of pressure that is the natural and inescapable result of hours of
uninterrupted reading. Often I would rise in the morning and begin my daily
habit without leaving my bed. My nightstand is never empty of books.
Countless days I have read from sun-up to sun-down, and then continued by
artificial light into the dark hours of night, when my eyes would finally
In my first year of graduate school, however, I noticed
that my eyes were actually giving out, degraded from intense and incessant
reading. But even this did not stop me. I acquired contacts and glasses. I
continued my habit, even increasing my daily doses of text as I devoured
assigned readings, and then went on to read everything else that caught my
attention. How much there is to read! Imagine a heroin addict who can obtain
an endless supply of the drug. Would a heroin addict stop when their drug
began to destroy their eyesight? Well, would they?
I cannot escape my addiction. I will not even sit in a
natural setting without reading a book. This weekend I hiked to a beautiful
waterfall and sat riverside in a sunny shady spot. But, did I repose in
contemplation, or mediate on the moving water, the echoing noise, or the
passage of time as written into the hillside by erosion? No. I read a book!
To write these words is to manufacture, in my own crude
way, the elixir itself. No different from compounding a new chemical
creation designed to interact with the mind, to bind to this or that
receptive neuron. Here, with my own fingers I create a psychoactive drug,
just as spiritual, just as potent, as those made by chemists, or extracted
from plants. Better even: a drug that never runs out, and that can be shared
by many at once, over both space and time. One that can be easily stored,
and precisely dosed. One that can be consumed neat, without a monoamine
oxidase inhibitor, or any paraphernalia at all other than natural or
At this very instant my drug is coursing through your
brain. Have you closed the window shades and secured the doors?