writers club winner jan 2019 man repeller
The Book That Kept Me Up at Night for Two Years
02.02.19

It was the title that hooked me: The Meaning of Life. A bold claim, but I supposed if you could find the meaning of life anywhere, it was probably on a Greek island in the back corner of a basement bookstore.

I wasn’t entirely wrong.

It turned out to be an anti-dictionary of sorts — a compilation of undefined feelings, experiences, objects and situations arbitrarily assigned to words that don’t exist.

“Nybster (n.): Sort of person who takes the lift to travel one floor.”

“Fovant (n.): A taxi driver’s gesture, a raised hand pointed out of the window which purports to mean ‘thank you’ and actually means ‘fuck off out of my way.’”

“Dinder (vb.): To nod thoughtfully while someone gives you a long and complex set of directions which you know you’re never going to remember.”

It was a literary masterpiece. I paged through with someone specific in mind, trying to decide if we were the kind of friends who gave each other quirky nerd gifts for no reason. She was the only other person I knew whose sense of humor was esoteric and absurd enough to find this entertaining, but were we close enough? Was it weird to buy someone a birthday gift five months in advance? Why did I remember her birthday? Why was I thinking about her at all? Forget it, I thought, and put it down.

If I had known that this single action would plague me with reverse-buyer’s remorse so intense I’d be looking up flights to Athens two years later, I would’ve bought the godforsaken book when I had the chance.

It certainly made more financial sense to order it online, but I didn’t remember the author, hadn’t considered how difficult it would be to Google “the meaning of life,” and the aforementioned bookstore returned none of the emails I sent explaining my predicament. But I wasn’t about to give up. Especially not after that friend became more than a friend, and even after she was neither. My strange and obsessive treasure hunt continued nonetheless.

It was only by sheer dumb luck and a fated typo that I eventually stumbled across the elusive fake dictionary, available in hardcover on Amazon Prime in all its shining pleather glory: The Meaning of Liff by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. That explained a lot.

By the time I finally found it, she and I hadn’t spoken in months.

Maybe I can mail it to her?

No, I can’t. I’ve been watching too many rom coms. That would be weird.

I’m probably overthinking this again.

With The Meaning of Liff sitting in my cart, and me facing the end of a painstaking search, I figured it was safe to assume this much: If I still care about this not-really-dictionary two years after a 10-minute encounter, I’ll probably still care about her until I see her again, too.

Maybe I should just get the book, hang on to it until then. Maybe I shouldn’t let it get away this time.

Gif by Emily Zirimis.

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