…were the last words I read in The Book Thief before stirring from my frozen place in the winter sun and walking inside.
The words were like a mirror reflecting exactly how the book was making me feel. I put the book down. I’m not sure that I can read it right now. I’m drawn to the book mainly because of the title. The idea of a young girl being a book thief appeals to the bibliophile in me. However, the narrator is repulsive. Soul stealing is not my cup of tea. When I read, I don’t want to feel like I am sitting on a cold chair with clenched thoughts, no matter how well crafted some of Zusac’s sentences may be. Not today. Sometimes it seems the world is full of death and I need a book to escape it.
Last week my brother rang me and told me that my ex-husband’s brother in law had died. Of AIDS. AIDS?! When I found out I sat with “clenched thoughts” wondering why I felt nothing. My heart was hard. Maybe because he was related to my ex. Maybe because I hated that it meant he had cheated on his wife. Maybe because it fitted with the selfish and indulgent lifestyle he lived. Maybe because I am bitter and unforgiving. Maybe because I secretly thought he deserved it. For whatever reason, I felt nothing except horror at my cold unfeeling heart.
Until a student walked into my class joking about people dying of AIDS. Then, I felt. Then, I almost lost it. My cold heart fumed with a red hot anger at the callous manner in which this student who was completely oblivious to the horrors of AIDS was joking in such a light hearted manner. He was obviously completely unaware of the devastation that a wife would feel at discovering that her husband has AIDS… that in all likelihood she now has AIDS. He had no idea of the emaciation a once robust – some would say overly robust – man would undergo, the destruction a family would experience, the shame, the pain, the isolation. I was so mad. But my anger was misdirected. The student shouldn’t have to know about such terrors. I’m glad he doesn’t.
Now I’m angry at this man – my ex-husband’s brother in law. I’m angry, sad, and guilty. How is it that as someone dies, as an ex-sister in-law grieves and perhaps dies, I feel relief and think”Thank God it was not me!”? ‘Cause it could have been. My ex – with all his philandering – could have given me a death sentence. He could have. “Thank God it wasn’t me!” These things are not supposed to come so close. And so I sit with clenched thoughts on a very hard chair.