It just happened so fast. One minute, I was innocently ignoring a copy of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and the next moment, I was killing it. And it was a slow death.
A painful death.
A few weeks earlier, I was having coffee with one of my classmates, Brad*. I really liked Brad, but it wasn’t really going anywhere, so I was beginning to lose hope. After about an hour, he mentioned that one of his favorite books was War and Peace, and so of course I immediately mentioned that I had always wanted to read it, but, so sadly, I had never gotten around to purchasing a copy for myself. It was only a few days later that Brad was loaning me his beloved copy.
Never before in my life had I enjoyed the slightest desire to read War and Peace, and that disinterest continued for the three weeks Brad’s copy sat on my bedside table.
Brad’s copy was worn with use, but still in excellent condition. There was plenty of highlighting and notes scribbled in the pages, but judging by the covers, it looked almost new. But that was before I knocked an entire glass of water on top of it.
In my rush to save the book, I promptly fell off the bed and nearly gave myself a concussion. By the time I was actually able to lift the book off the now drenched table, it was too late.
The book was now completely waterlogged. The pages were already waving and fusing together, and the colors from the front cover were bleeding into the first few pages. In my quickly building panic, I began to violently shake the book in an attempt to unstick the pages. I tried to wipe the water from the cover, but that only caused the coloring to further smear.
After a few hours of ironing each (still wet) page in an absurd attempt to dry and straighten the pages simultaneously, I laid the book open and went to bed.
The next morning I realized that after hours of being shaken and ironed, and combined with the weight of the water, the spine had cracked in a few of the weaker spots. The book was now far beyond repair, and so I began to search for a copy with the same cover. I knew what I needed to do.
I found an identical copy and began to painstakingly highlight the exact same passages Brad had highlighted in the destroyed copy. I spent about an hour a night until the highlighting was identical, and then I spent another three nights trying my best to copy his handwritten notes in the margins of the pages.
Throughout this period our class was ending, and every time when he would ask me where in the book I was, I just parroted off some plot points I found online. Even though I was highlighting almost half of the book, I still hadn’t read a single word. I now had a personal grudge against the book, Tolstoy, and the entire nation of Russia.
After our class ended, Brad soon graduated and I was able to effectively avoid him until he moved across the state. Even after the weeks of work, I was still terrified he would be able to tell that it was not his original book. So I kept both.
I burned both copies of War and Peace in a quiet, dark ceremony of shame.
*(Not his real name.)