A ticket in a book
One day I discovered a train ticket in a book. At first I get confused and wondered who put it there. The ticket is German, which makes the whole thing even more mysterious. I have not read the book in question since 1993 when I bought it, and I have believed that it has been in its place on the bookshelf since then.
I wonder where the book might have been without my knowledge.
Suddenly it dawns on me – my friend J borrowed the book once many years ago. The ticket is from 2008 and it strikes me that he sometimes went to his sister in Germany to visit her family. So he took my book with him on the trip that year. The ticket is bookmarked on page 136 so I guess that’s where he stopped reading.
J has been dead for many years now. It was both strange and nice to find a trace of him in one of my books. My and J’s relationship consisted of a single long conversation that lasted twenty years. When we met, we picked up where we left off. Sometimes I would think of a book on the subject we were discussing and sometimes he would borrow those books. It was also an ongoing project in helping J in his desire to read more.
I don’t know if J intended to finish reading this book, but everything indicates that he thought it was fine to stop there on page 136. That a book must be read to the last page is mostly a norm we stick with. But it is rarely necessary. Maybe he thought so when he folded the book. But I’ll never know.
I will think of the book that was next to my grandmother’s bed when she died; Den blå vänthallen – The blue lounge by the Swedish writer Viveca Lärn. The bookmark was somewhere in the middle of the book and I remember thinking it was a shame that she never got to read it to the end. We had talked about it a few weeks before she died. I had to borrow the book from the library a few years later to read it to the end because grandma didn’t have time. I remember the day I read the page that followed her bookmark. The part of the book she never got to read.
People die and leave traces behind. Sometimes it’s a German train ticket hidden in a book, sometimes it’s an unfinished novel on a bedside table. The traces are links to the lives once lived and to the people I once loved.
Mattias Kvick is an Author and Illustrator