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Second hand stories

I found his book on a flea market in a muggy church years ago. I liked the dust on it, no fingers have touched the cover in a long time. It must have been seventh hand, pages yellow of eyes following letters a thousand times. I didn’t know the man who wrote it, but he spoke to my imagination. Wearing his seventies colours proud, standing next to a bicycle. A cover picture telling its own story.

It’s been at least five years since I bought the book and added it to my stack of to reads. While travelling, I would allow myself space in my backpack for six books. Read and give away to make the burden lighter, my world fuller. Or swap, to take a peak in a world someone else has been adventuring in before.

Back in Belgium, the pile of books I wanted to get through was growing as I was bringing back second hand novels (Australia), spiritual guides (Nepal) and biographies (Canada). Then, I was gifted an e-reader and paperbacks were packed in boxes and hid on the attic.

Coming home from long journeys abroad is always like treasure hunting, going through stuff I completely forgot I had. With the strong feeling in my core I will stay put in Belgium for a while, I moved the boxes of books to my Brussels apartment and am going through them one at a time, savouring every page. I’m a slow reader. I love words and want to experience them with all my senses. Only when I have fully touched, tasted, smelled, heard and read every word, I will turn the page. It’s a slooow process, but it’s sweet.

Worlds open up with every new book I dust off. Sometimes I have started reading it years ago, leaving letters stained with lipstick and coffee, hidden notes showing where I left off. Where I decided to move onto new territories. Not being able to visualise what lies in the pages at the time.

Other people have done this too, which makes the quest for second hand books so much fun. By walking through the story, you get a glimpse of other peoples lives. Cigarette smoke, red wine spilled, bookmarks and love notes. Taking you back in time. On rainy Sunday evenings, there is no place I’d rather go.

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