The Ides of March

Four years ago today, Mr. Shakes and I "met" for the first time, in a forum not so very different from this one.

It was all because of an Oscar Wilde quote. To paraphrase, There's no such thing as good or evil, only the interesting and the tedious. In a matter of days (three, I think), Mr. Shakes asked me, "Fancy a game of Fahrenheit 451? Which book would you memorize for posterity, and which would you throw onto the pyre?" I was, of course, hooked.

Both of us are bookish, nerdy, LotR types, as anyone who's spent more than 10 seconds around here has surely discerned, and each of us had spent a lifetime having a love affair with books before we met, and so it was probably no coincidence that books played a big part in our relationship as it developed. We emailed back and forth about the books we'd both read and loved. (A Tale of Two Cities, if I recall correctly, was the first book we discovered for which we were both equally mad.) We recommended other books we loved to one another, and reported back with our reviews. We both bought Schopenhauer's The World as Will and Representation, and read it at the same time, sending each other long email messages with our respective thoughts about the ideas within.

After two months, I had a birthday, and I received a package from Mr. Shakes. It was a beat-up copy of one of his favorite books, Flashman. I thought he had remembered my affinity for used books and picked up a second-hand copy for me; it was only when I opened it and saw the signed inscription from the author that I realized it was his own copy that he had sent.

Perhaps the strangest incident, and make of it what you will, was my inclusion of an Omar Khayyám quatrain in an email to Mr. Shakes, who responded by telling me to keep my eyes on my mailbox. The next day, a package arrived from Britain, containing The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám, with one dog-earned page. On that page was the exact same quatrain I had emailed, with no knowledge that he had sent the book with the marked passage nearly a week earlier.

A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread--and Thou
Beside me singing in the Wilderness—
Oh, Wilderness were Paradise enow!

When we were separated by 4000 miles, miserable and pouting about it, we used to talk about how all we wanted was to sit on a comfy sofa, each at one end, with our legs stretched toward one another, sharing an afghan and reading our books. We can do that anytime we want now—and it’s every bit as good as I’d imagined.

It’s been a great four years, Mr. Shakes. I’m looking forward to all the rest with you. Thanks, babe.

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