A Brief Story About No One

A Brief Story About No One or: A Practical Guide to Moving On

Once, several years ago, I had a friend. She had a friend, too. In fact, she had several. She dated one, for a while. I think they got along. I don’t really know, because I didn’t know him. I met him, but I didn’t know him. No one did.

In my entire tenure of being around this person, he has probably spoken fewer than four dozen words in my presence. I always assumed he was just reserved, but there was more to it than that. He was removed. He didn’t interact. He wasn’t there. In short, he did not exist.

He stayed at my home once, with his girlfriend. I knew her at the time. I even liked her. As for her boyfriend, he was there. After the weekend they visited, my mother reflected on the experience. “It was like meeting nobody,” she said.

He had one positive attribute, though: he had read and enjoyed House of Leaves, my favorite book. I am always eager to discuss that book and similar works when I get the chance. He said he liked it, so I made a decision. I lent him another book by the same author, The Fifty Year Sword.

The Fifty Year Sword is a limited-edition book by Mark Z. Danielewski. It was released in the Netherlands in 2006. 1000 English and 1000 Dutch copies were printed, first editions. The English copies sold quickly because of the popularity of Danielewski’s first book. 1000 additional copies were printed. Those second editions were much easier to find and purchase (on the Internet). I found a Netherlands-based site that sold books in English. They had The Fifty Year Sword, so I bought it. It cost €39.90, which came to about $60 after shipping.

When it arrived after several weeks later, it was a bit warped. Other than that, the book was fine. I read through it and found that it was a fantastic short story presented in a bizarre and interesting fashion. Despite the expense, I was convinced then (and now) that it was a worthwhile purchase.

After my suicide attempt in 2009, I had to leave Lincoln in a hurry, but he still had the book. I had several higher priorities at the time, so I kept forgetting to get in touch and ask for it back. Every attempt at contacting him since then has failed, and there have been several. Each time I get in touch with him, he responds once, halfheartedly, and never again. I have been unable to arrange even the simplest conversation, even to get the book returned in the mail at my expense.

After a couple of years, I finally decided to replace the book, from yet another Dutch website, for the same price as before. The exchange rate had improved, so it only came to $50 that time. I still have that copy of the book, but I will never lend it out.

So if the book was so expensive and important, why did I lend it out? Because I wanted him to read it. Because no one I know has ever read it. Unfortunately, that’s still true. He never read the book. No one has.

Recently, another friend who has read House of Leaves expressed interested in reading this rare book. I wanted to lend out my copy, but I won’t do it again at that price, even though I trust this person. I have been forced to learn my lesson.

Of course, I could buy another one. I could get it on a Dutch website for €42. I could get it on an American website for $275. I could get a signed copy on ebay for $500.

The problem is, I don’t really want the fucking book back. I want it to be read. I want to know that somewhere, it’s being read by real people. Not under a stack of nerdy books and shitty manga in no one’s apartment.

Looking back on this experience, I’m forced to acknowledge my own stupidity. Why lend out a significant book to someone you don’t know? He might not even read it.

But I can always be consoled by the fact that I didn’t really lend it out to anyone. Just no one.