Perhaps is a defining word, it is an all-encompassing, sinful, innocent word.
Perhaps is, for me, at the heart of every good book, and at the heart of why my head has been, in one way or another, buried inside the pages of a book for the last 22 years or so.
“Perhaps, when I grow older, I can be something great” my younger-self had wondered as it strolled through the fantasy of Enid Blyton adventures and written imaginations stretching my beliefs.
“Perhaps, there is something magical about this feeling” my growing-self had thought as it felt the terror of reading those brilliant short stories from Anthony Horowitz.
“Perhaps, this is more than expression, it is education” my adolescence began to bellow, as I breached through into the classics of Dickens, and Bronte, and Faulkner, and Hemingway.
“And Perhaps I can do this, too”, somewhere in between it all, my mind began to postulate.
Books are one of our oldest companions, for centuries we have found the need for self-expression and written entertainment. Starting with verbal storytelling and constantly evolving into novels, and autobiographies, historical non-fiction, fantasies, everything the mind can create. Some pick up the book out of obligation at school, and never pick it up again and others lift it up, hold it and never wish to give it back. Some will scan signs for the story in the semantics, for the importance of the syntax of a sentence, for the way alliteration dances with the tongue.
A child will smile at every ghost and ghoul, every fantasy world, every utopia that the written word presents them, it will give them role models, and inspirations of which life and its circumstances may have otherwise robbed them of. It is one of our first introductions to the idea that what we see may not be as straightforward as it seems. As a child, I was terrified and angry. Regularly, the dark, the emptiness, loneliness, the future, people-in-general, struck some sort of fear in my heart. Books were a therapy alongside actual therapy, and they gave me the opportunity to re-evaluate my mind and its perception, it saw reality in fiction and began to heal.
Over the years, I discovered how powerful fiction was and how it made a person feel, and then I began to understand the appreciation of historical non-fiction and autobiographies. How can we ever understate the importance of attempting to comprehend as many points of views as possible? Autobiographies break down barriers and invisible shields that make us think successful, famous people are untouchable, that they are different to us, that they are better and born better, they remind us that everyone starts somewhere and waits and waits and then does something about it.
Historical fiction and non-fiction encourages us to learn as much as possible, because knowledge is power, and knowledge is awareness, the more we know, the more we can progress. It allows us to know where we have come from, where other people have come from, to appreciate every culture in the world so as to uphold its existence and not let it become extinct, or turned into something destructive. My four years at University reignited my passion for books in this particular field, there was an entire year where I could not stop researching, and learning, and understanding where everything came from, where my ancestors on both sides of my biraciality met, positively and negatively.
And aside from the intense, educationally significant and politically charged literature, there is also just the pure, enjoyment of reading a book, the content, the concept and the atmosphere.
The typical setting: someone sits/lays on a chair/sofa/in-a-bath/on-a-bed with a book open, the bind just carefully resting in the palm of their hand, the other hand gently turning pages, a cup of tea/coffee/hot chocolate/lemsip to the side and either quiet music or complete silence in the background. They are reading to distract/escape/rest/love/feel-in-general and it is letting them do that and more, everything about that moment begins to calm them/anger them into change/inspire them into change/ change them into what they were always meant to be.
It is every word in the dictionary, it is the way it changes and recycles every word in the dictionary and turns them into something completely new. From the first time readers to the veteran bookworms, there is a person in this world experiencing this viscerality, and at the same time there is someone hating it, actively despising every aspect of it, and that’s okay. There is something also in the fact that reading still feels like a niche hobby, despite millions of readers, it never stops feeling personal.
My head has been stuck in a book for as long as I can remember, but it is not just my head, it is my mind, my heart, my lungs, every organ that keeps my body alive in that moment. The way my senses refresh when I open a cover (after admiring its beauty) and smell that fresh, new book smell. The way that I close the back cover (after rereading those last words over and over) and feel so content and so heartbroken at the same time. The way that my memories smile back at me when I return to an old book with new thoughts and feelings.
The book, in all its simplicity, is a timeline and a lifeline for this boy-now-a-man, broken, fixed, broken, fixed and forever not alone in its presence.