And So, I Must Write
By Boško Garača , Casual Contributor
It has become, more or less, a daily routine for my body to stumble into the decaying bygone train cars of the Bloor-Danforth line, crossing over the unnerving gap between the opening car doors and the yellow line which affrights my soul, forcing me to grasp my cellphone—strangling it has undoubtedly taken a toll on my pocket lining. Destination often unknown, I willingly subject myself to wherever the train sees fit: sometimes Ossington, others Dufferin, another perhaps Pape, and still another at Bay,
though St. George is the most frequent of stops, of course, but what remains most dear has been my excursions just west of Spadina: Bathurst.
Much can be said about that thoroughfare which has impaled my heart with tenderness, yet there is not enough time to recount the entirety of such a monsterful street. What time does allow for, however, is an account of my journeying into the divinity that are the red-packed-sweaty-rotting streetcars of the City and their spitting me out just precisely off-center at their intersection with College Street. Here, at this busy juncture of roaming students and people, is where my heart lies; I find myself, in a manner near religious habit, approaching the quiet solitude that is Balfour Books—a quaint and quiet bookshop that finds itself a fane for the bibliophile.
I have found myself there so frequently in recent days, weeks—dare I say months—that its collection of gleaming literary genius has become all too familiar. Coming to know the shelves of the shop, with each genre noted by Scrabble tiles framed on the delicate, beige, and sandy wood surrounding the interior, it has become etched into my memory. There seemed to me no end of picking books historic and noble: day one presented Forster, London, and Orwell; day two was Homer, Ovid, and Virgil; day three Sartre; day four a first-edition Woolf; the days continued. All around, I was surrounded by humanity in its most immortal form—each author, undoubtedly, had achieved some great excellence of the human condition in life that demanded their preservation in our histories. In each visit, I found for myself a miniature revitalization of Alexandria’s most famed library. Some conceptualization of life presented itself to me in each and every visit as I gazed upon the literature around me, immortalized and remembered in their own copies, depicting a looking glass back into a time bygone—seemingly not lost to time.
Curious is the matter that humanity has attempted to find some medicinal cure for life and death, looking for the harnessing of immortality, when immortality lies afore our eyes on a daily basis. Each person preserves someone else’s legacy, should they have procured even one book for their bookshelf. Immortality surrounds us, and though life is short, life beyond life exists, seemingly on the yellowing leaves of paper bound by string and glue. . .and more paper. The written word is that which has sent my mind round in dizzying angst every time I set foot into that quaint bookshop, and though it is quaint in nature, it is filled with ferocity.
I feel perturbed by the thought that ghosts exist betwixt the shelves of these bookcases, but perhaps all the more unsettling is the constant reminder of my existence when I no longer exist. When I am brought earth to earth, ashes to ashes, what am I?
I know that so long as I live in ink scrawled upon some page, I am never nothing. If I wish to bypass death and live on, I must encase myself in ink, situating myself in the
pages of books and hoping that my life beyond death ages as gracefully as the yellowing pages in which my word and I are forever held.
But the thought of placing pen to paper (finger to keyboard) and immortalizing myself is a dreadful thought, especially when met with the eternal struggle of writer’s block and ever-encroaching lebensmüde, my ever-growing weariness of life with which I am faced along the way. But the alternative, that of being nothing, being lost to time and history, never seeing the interior of Balfour as one of the great texts entombed on its shelves, is all the more terrifying. It is inhumane.
Yet conditions for such a book-bound immortality undoubtedly arise. What makes one worthy of immortality, and more worrisome, how substantial must one’s work be for their immortality to be honoured? One’s incessant ramblings on the Internet cannot be worthy of immortality—otherwise all people, no matter what they claim, immortalize themselves, entombed on a non-physical cloud for the world to read. One’s immortality is reliant on substantial work that only history, cultures, and progress of time can deem suitable; there is no method to know if one has achieved their book-bound (or even Internet-bound) immortality until their eventual demise. It is not for us, in the now, to decide who will be immortal.
Then what of those in bygone history who have encased themselves in ink but remain unknown—are they not immortalized? And to this, I respond that they are immortalized, but they have been forgotten. In a dizzying angst, I come to the realization that my immortality is possible, and yet I remain susceptible to the forgetfulness of those in the future.
Exiting the nostalgic bookshop into the loud, bustling roars of the City, I have always found myself cognizant of the frank reality: all those lining the street corners, the crumbling sidewalks, and those exiting the streetcar (toward which I briskly jog), will be nothing in time—they exist now, but for only now. Standing with one hand clasping the railing inside the streetcar, the other holding my loot, I often stand in dismay, thinking of joining all those around me as nothing more than the now. It is a fate unacceptable; better to begin a rough draft, in all its lousy glory, than to allow this existence to be the final. The greats have encased themselves in the only immortality humanity may ever know—it is those in the now’s place to join them. And so, I must write.