The books began arriving in late May, for no apparent reason. They were always hand-delivered, as far as I could tell – there was nothing to indicate that they had been shipped, and every one of them was wrapped in plastic bags, plastic boxing. Anything, it seemed, to protect them from the elements while they sat on the doorstep.
That was another thing: they always came overnight, and no matter how long I tried to stay awake to see the drop-off, I couldn’t. I always missed it, for one reason or another. Still, they came almost daily – philosophy, sciences, literature, arts. Every book I did go through (I couldn’t read them all; there was never going to be time) had notes in the margins, annotations in loopy purple or blue print. Over time I came to distinguish the two from the other, as each writer had different methods of writing and noting things in place.
There was fiction, there was non-fiction. Books began to clutter up my room, spilling over to the lounge. They overflowed from tables to the floor, textbooks mysteriously appearing in pride of place on the wall-to-wall bookshelves I’d set up in one room as my own little library. Despite my own annoyances, I found that I couldn’t resist spending an evening reading. It became routine to come home from work or study, have dinner, then spend the evening reading with a tall Thermos of tea.
At one point, there came a note, taped to the newest batch of books. We’re studying the universe, trying to decode it, was all it read – same looped purple writing as the annotations. For my part, I was just reading it all out of curiosity.
There was no rhyme or reason to how the books arrived, no genre selection. They simply streamed in, piled up at the front door.
More notes came in, bits of paper stuck in books when the note was too long to fit the margins; others were stuck on books or loose in the packaging.
Despite all this, I never made my own notes, though it certainly appealed to me a few times to do so. Nothing really stuck with me until one night, reading about human nature and I uncapped a red pen, scrawling inside the front cover before I’d even really thought about it. The quote was an old one, something I’d come across once when I hadn’t even been looking:
When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it