by Carolin Messier
The smudge on the lower, unbound edge of the pages was the color of nacho cheese Doritos. Inside the front cover Audrey Clemens had claimed the book as hers in a tidy hand with a fine-tipped pen. Each corner was dinged from being dropped repeatedly in the rush out the door, having hit the snooze button one too many times, again. The first ten minutes of the lectures were always the most interesting; she wouldn’t want to miss those. She’d made a few margin notes as she studied the literary importance of Pride and Prejudice, but not so many as to be distracting. Then she let it go for me to find at Ophelia’s Books on Fremont Avenue. Stanley, the resident cat, lifted his head briefly as I laid it on the counter along with my three other finds. He showed neither approval nor disdain for my selections. Neutral apathy was what you could expect from Stanley. He’d seen it all. He didn’t judge.
I’d read Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy’s story before and seen it on film and performed on stage as well. The six-hour BBC version was my favorite. I pulled it out on solitary, rainy days as a comfortable companion. Even though I knew the story intimately, I believe it’s a good idea to revisit old friends who lie quietly between pages every decade or so. I looked forward to reading it again not to see whether they’d changed, because of course they hadn’t, but to see whether I’d changed. My own character and experiences are reflected back to me most clearly by those I know the best. When I understand familiar characters in a different way, I learn something about myself, and Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy are more familiar to me than any other literary friends.