“You wanna buy this book,” Murray told Chris.
Chris laughed. “No thanks, I’m not much of a reader and that book looks like 10,000 pages.”
“It’s 22,347 pages. For now.”
“What’s it about?”
“Yeah, it’s your life story.”
“Right. Good one.”
“I’ve read it. You’re pretty boring, aren’t you?”
“Hey, I came here to buy this book for my friend.”
“I told you, I’ve read your book. You’re a bad read.”
“So, why’d you read it?”
“I read everything. You don’t even read the directions to anything. How many weeks did you spend trying to set up that IKEA desk before you gave up and threw it in the garbage without once looking at the instructions?”
“I read your life story, get over it.”
“It’s- my whole life story is in this book?”
Chris opens the book to page one. “It’s in Spanish. I can’t read Spanish.”
“I guess you better learn.”
“I’m not learning Spanish.”
“It’s too hard.”
“I know. You’re not clever.”
“Hey, nice. I’m trying to do business with you.”
“No you’re not. Right now you are thinking about asking how much the book costs, but, you’re hesitating because you think by asking the question, you’ll be lead down a path of being schemed. You know you’re easily schemed.”
“This conversation’s in there?”
“Every conversation’s in there.”
“But, it’s in Spanish. Don’t you have an English version?”
“What, do you think these are mass produced? This is one of a kind.”
“Why’s it in Spanish? Where’d you get it?”
“I can’t tell you that. Partly because I don’t know and partly because I don’t want to.”
“How’s it end?”
“With your death.”
“Yeah. When? How? Now?”
“Read for yourself.”
“I said I can’t read Spanish. I took French for six years and I can’t speak a lick of it.”
“Yeah, your French classes were the funniest scenes. But know I was laughing at you.”
“Thanks a lot. You know you’re terrible at customer service.”
“I have your life in my hands. I can afford to be.”
“You don’t have to be a jerk.”
“Yes I do. It’s how I’m written.”
“You got a book about you?”
“Yeah, and I’ve read mine, though it was written in Fijian. I spent ten years on the island of Viti Levu and lived the language. Then I read the book and I saw what I needed to rewrite and now I’m practically perfect. I don’t want to be perfect perfect, that would be perfectly boring.”
“How do you die?”
“That’s a highly personal question.”
“If I asked you how you were born would you say the same thing?”
“Alright, then how do I die?”
“That’s not your business.”
“It’s my business! It’s my death!”
“It’s not your business till you buy the book, learn Spanish and find out for yourself. But, you’re not going to do that.”
“Is that what you read?”
“It would be out of character for you. I’ve read thousands of boring biographies before, but yours stands out as the most boring. The only joy I got was reading I will meet you and tell you in person that you are one uninspired individual. And that’s your cue to say: ‘fuck you’ and walk out of the store. Hasta luego.”
Murray was correct. Chris had been one breath from saying and doing exactly that. But because he hated being told what to do, Chris stayed put and asked: “How much for the book?”
“Oh! Very good, you just changed your fate. Book’s free, take it. And if you do learn Spanish and read it, you’re welcome. Though, I doubt it.”
“Thanks for the book.”
“You should thank me for going off script. You were supposed to leave without the book.”
“Thank you,” Chris mumbled, uncomfortable with this whole concept of malleable fate. He put the paperback Jane Eyre for Laurie on top of the bulky leather bound version of his life. “It’s really heavy,” he grunted, lifting the books off the counter, buckling at the knees.
“It’s $18.50 for the Jane Eyre.”
Chris took the book home and put it on his bedside table where he hoped it would impose upon him to take Spanish classes.
“I’ll learn you yet!” he shouted at the book. The book kept its opinions to itself. It sat there for two years before Chris would think to hire a translator. He asked Pepe, the part time dishwasher who worked in the restaurant where Chris waitered.
“Hey, Pepe, I’ll pay you ten bucks if you translate the last few sentences of this,” Chris offered him the last page from his book. Chris figured his ending was the best place to start, especially since he read the year was 2013.
Pepe took it home to put the words into English. Pepe had only been in the country for less than a year, so his English was still far from perfect, and though he got the time and place right, he wrote Jun for the abbreviation for January.
And the next January, Chris would step off the curb and catch a glimpse of the speeding taxi out of the corner of his eye. His last thought was: I shoulda been born in Spanish.