Unreturned Books & Other Heartbreaks


I. People do not know this, and I wish sometimes they would: that when I give or lend you a book, it means I have chiseled away a secret fragment of my heart and entrusted it in your hands; that when you fail or forget to return it to me, a part of me silently concedes to being incomplete forever. I’m a possessive bitch and I keep a record of things lost and gone. I have an inventory of faulty promises, of people who just suddenly forget to keep in touch for several years, of books that vanish into thin air.

II. I wonder if my reputation as a reader gives people the impression that I’m a good listener. I am not a very patient person but somehow my determination to go from book to book has led people to believe that I have the strength to listen to their stories too. Of this, I am grateful. Nine out of ten times, I see myself as a disappointment; I wish I’m the kind of person who’s easy with affection and generous with hugs. Once, I was comforting a friend who’s suffering the blasted aftermath of a relationship fallout when I tried recommending her a Daniel Handler book. It was my way of telling her that I understood her pain, that she will be better because of this, that she will be alright. Sometimes books are the only arms I can offer you. She’s happily involved in a new relationship now but she never gave me back the book. It’s been hard to embrace people ever since.

III. There are moments that are too big for words. I always find myself wordless and out of breath and dancing in gibberish. When I recommend and lend you a book, that’s probably me being cryptic. That’s me speaking in a secret language, me gesturing something in code. If you read it, you would know what I mean: this character reminds me of you or I love you like she loves him or this sentence is what I’ve been meaning to tell you for ages. When someone fails to return a book back, it’s as if I didn’t get any response, like suddenly realizing that I’ve only been talking to air, like I am unworthy of a conversation, like I would forever be in nothing but a monologue.

 IV. Someday, in the event of you coming across these books you never returned, I hope you remember me: my giddiness as I blabbered on and on about this book I’ve been wanting you to read, my anticipation as I handed it to your care, my looks of longing on the days afterwards when realization finally comes to me that the book has slipped away from your mind. I hope you remember how unkind you have been and I wish it hurts you a little. I hope you would understand the shallowness of my silences and that you would know that despite all this, I forgive you, but you would always be a memory of an empty space in my bookshelf.


4 thoughts on “Unreturned Books & Other Heartbreaks

  1. “You would always be a memory of an empty space in my bookshelf.”

    I completely understand. A friend of mine borrowed my copy of Number the Stars when we were in 5th Grade and never returned it. I STILL think about that space on my childhood bookshelf–a bookshelf that no longer exists–whenever I see her at the daycare where we both send our children today (it’s been DECADES!).


  2. I have a list on my phone of the books that I lent and I borrowed. Hehe! I kinda hate it when a person promises me to return a book on a certain date but didn’t.

    (I am now going to send a text message to my officemate who borrowed my book like, for almost a year now. And she haven’t read it yet!)


    • Ouch, that’s what hurts even worse, right? When they aren’t even reading it and they still end up not giving it back. Ugh, that drives me crazy too! Maybe I should follow your method of actually listing books that I lend people, haha. It’s true though that I’ve been guilty of not returning books in the past too hahaha, is this karma?


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