Today is a mix of sharing my book lending policy and telling the story of how it came to be.
I grew up surrounded by books. Both my parents are readers, so since I was little I was schooled in the ‘don’t dog-ear’, ‘don’t tear pages’, ‘don’t get books wet’ dogma of owning books. Yes, good, I’ve adopted those mannerisms and a few more of my own personal tastes, such as ‘I don’t care if the spines of my books are cracked, but I won’t crack yours, don’t worry’ and ‘I’m warning you now that if I borrow a book of yours, it’ll take me forever to read it, but I will take care of it and you will get it back‘. I’m also a huge believer in the ‘if you ruin it, buy a new copy’ ideology. It’s great, I dig it.
None of these above things should be shocking to many people (except maybe the spine cracking thing, but like I said, I only do that to my books and only if they’re those stiff mass market paperbacks because I need to get them open, man). Complete reasonable, right?
Well, let me tell you a story, son. It’s gonna rustle your jimmies, believe you me. Prepare yourself for a novel.
The tale of how Emily’s official book-lending policy was born
Before this story occured, my book lending policy was ‘borrow it, take care of it, return it’. Pretty simple but rather vague. In some ways, what happened was due to my own lack of detail in what I expected when someone borrowed one of my books but in other ways, this person totally and completely betrayed my trust and she is now dead to me.
When I was 18 years old, I was a freshman in college. I went to the local community college about two miles from my parents’ house and worked in the campus bookstore between my classes. After a semester or so, people began congregating in the bookstore as it had been upgraded to have tables and food and stuff like that. So, people would come in and spend their downtime there. Therefore, being there myself about 15 hours a week, I made friends with some of these people. A big group of us formed, maybe eight or so, that became really close. We all liked similar things – movies, books, anime, food, art, science – stuff like that. So we would all chatter, them at the tables and me behind the cashier’s counter.
At this point, I was already neck-deep into reading manga. This was when Death Note had first come out and was insanely popular. I’m talking people who didn’t know what anime was knew what Death Note was. It was all over – this was about 2008, 2009, mind you. So obviously, I had all 12 volumes and had at that point reread them a few times. And one day, I was talking up the series to my group of friends. One of them, Kat – not even gonna change her name because it’s so generic in the first place that you’ll never know who I mean anyways – expressed interest in reading them and asked to borrow my copies. Kat and I had been friends at that point for a few months. She was funny and kind and loved hot chocolate. So I, without laying out what I wanted from her in doing this, said ‘sure’.
I lent her the first six volumes. She kept them for two months. No big deal – I don’t mind long borrowers as I am definitely a long borrower myself. Case in point, I have books both from my mother and friends I’ve had for well over a year. But my point is, I know where they all are and if the owners want them back before I get to them, all they need do is ask. They’re safe, they’re clean, they’re protected. So the length of time she had them didn’t bother me.
But. When she gave them back, volume five and six were sticky. Sticky! What in the world was she doing that they were sticky! First of all, she gave them back without comment, no warning that I would likely lose a few skin cells when picking up those two volumes. Second, she made no apologies when I pointed the stickiness out to her. She just shrugged, muttering something about pop (soda for all you non-western-pennsylvanians). I was irritated but the stickiness came off with a wipe of a cloth, so I wasn’t too steamed. That should have been my line there. That should have been my ‘no you don’t get to borrow anymore books’ limit. But it wasn’t.
Me, being the impressionable and approval-seeking 18-year-old that I was, didn’t want to lose a friend, so when Kat asked for the remaining six volumes, I hesitantly gave them to her.
Six months, she had them. Again, length of time not an issue. I asked her if she had gotten to them yet about three months in, just curious. She said ‘yeah I did – they’re in my car. I’ll grab them for you next time I’m in there’.
And then they proceeded to stay in her car for another three months, presumably bouncing around in her back seat, getting sat on, getting wet and goodness knows what else. When I pressed her for them again six month in – like I said time wasn’t an issue but she had said she’d finished them and at that point I wanted another reread – she went out to her car and got them for me.
There were two things that struck me when I saw my books, my poor poor books.
- The covers were in awful condition. They were bent, had obviously been wet at one time or another, and one of them looked dirty – like it had been on the floor and people’s shoes had been on them. They were just in bad shape.
- Three of them were missing. I had lent her volumes 7-12 and she returned 7-9. Volumes 10, 11 and 12 were nowhere to be seen.
I remember looking at her, saying ‘Where are the other three?’
And Kat, kind and funny Kat, looked me right in the eye and said, “You never gave them to me”.
Despite having said she’d finished the series, she claimed I never gave her the last three volumes. I had definitely given her those books. My friend Kat died that day, lost forever. My hot-chocolate-loving Kat had been replaced by a monster, a scourge upon humanity. I remember my mind going a bit blank when she said that. I looked at my three manga, sitting there in awful condition, and thought about the other three that I would never get back again, and took a really deep, really slow breath. Kat just sat there looking at me, no shame.
“I did lend them to you, you finished the series you said. Volume 12 was the last one.”
“I must have been mistaken.”
“I definitely lent you six books”
“Well I only have three”
At that point, my other friend Shannon (whom I’m still best friends with) noticed what we were talking about. She looked at the books and to me and picked up the context real quick. Taking in the look on my face, she quickly jumped in, distracting Kat while I picked up my three books and went in the back room and tried not to cry. Looking back now, I likely over-reacted but at the time, I was livid.
I was so mad. Why, why had she lied? We both knew she was lying. We had spoken earlier about the series when she had first told me she finished it and we talked about the ending. She knew the ending! She had obviously read all 12 books, so why say otherwise now? Honestly, even if the books had been utterly demolished, all she had to do was buy me new copies and all would have been fine! Instead, she had either decided that volume 10-12 were so great that she wanted to steal them (but not the rest for some reason) or they had been so badly damaged that she didn’t even want to attempt to return them and instead of fessing up she tried to claim that she had never been given them in the first place.
I was just. So. Mad. I was soooo angry. My 18-year-old self had at the point never had to deal with someone lying to my face about something we both knew she was lying about, but I had no proof other than my word to point it out. I didn’t know what to do – I hadn’t developed the coping skills for this.
Even just thinking back on it now, I’m getting irritated. Like, I still don’t understand her motivation. Did she not realize her so blatantly lying about this would ruin any trust I had in her? Like, what did she expect to happen? Seriously!
So obviously, I cooled down in the back room, tried to tidy the covers of the three books I had gotten back the best I could, and walked back out in the main area where Shannon, Kat and the others were. Kat had left by then. Shannon was still there, looking at me. And weeeeirdly enough, Kat never showed back up in the book store again, at least not while I was working there.
Maybe she hadn’t expected me to call out her lie and when I had done so, she fled? I don’t know. But really. We were both adults. I went in the back to handle my shit so I could talk to her like one afterward, but she couldn’t even have the decency to let me do that. She borrowed my books, got some sticky, got some dirty, got some wet, and then lied to my face about borrowing others in the first place. And then she left and I never saw her around again. I’m not kidding – I haven’t seen her since. She disappeared. She had been on my facebook but when I checked, she wasn’t on my friends list anymore. She had either removed herself and blocked me so I couldn’t search for her or she just deleted her account. To this day, I have no idea what happened to her or what happened to my manga.
Honestly if she would have stuck around, I would have been very mad at her for the longest time, but I would have forgiven her eventually. It would have taken a while, but I could have done it. My books were ruined and she had lied but it wasn’t the end of the world. I would move on. I have moved on. But the fact that she avoided me for the rest of my life still confuses the hell out of me. Why? Why? Like, I think I’m a fairly reasonable person. I tend not to hold grudges. Sure I was very, very angry in the moment but it would have passed . I just. Buh.
The whole ‘Dead to me’ thing? That resulted from a combination of her treatment of my books, her lying to my face and then her throwing the friendship away over it. That is why she’s dead to me. That is why this grudge, out of all things, has stuck. If she ever shows up in my life again, you betcha I’m calling her out on her shit, man. Not in an angry way, but more of a ‘what the hell happened there’ kind of way. Really. I mean, it’s almost a decade later, but my jimmies were so rustled over it. And while I’m not actively angry over it anymore, it still bothers me that I didn’t and still don’t understand the motivation behind her behavior. So Kat if you’re reading this, whaaaaat the hell happened?!
So right, after that, I made a very detailed ‘If you borrow this book’ policy. None of my other friend have had a problem with it.
Emily’s book borrowing policy as it currently stands
If I borrow your book:
- I will not crack the spine
- I will not dog-ear the pages
- I will not write in your book
- I will not get it went, bent, dirty, etc
- If any of the above happened accidentally, upon returning it to you I will offer to buy you a new copy. I will still return your original to you either way, but you choose if you want a new copy as well.
- I will likely keep your book for a long time, but I will warn you that I tend to do this before you decide if you want to let me borrow it
- I will always always get your book back to you.
- If you want your book back before I read it, just ask for it.
- I will not lend your book out to anyone else
If you borrow my book:
- I don’t care if you crack the spine
- Don’t write in it
- Don’t dog-ear the pages or in any other way bend or damage the book
- If any of the above happens accidentally, kindly offer to get me a new copy. Depending on how bad the damage is, I may or may not take you up on it. I tend to not care about a bend or two, but just the offer of a new copy anyways lets me know that you acknowledge what happened
- You can keep my book for as long as you need it, but know I’ll poke you about it every so often just to get a feel for where you are with it
- Always give my books back
- Don’t lend my books to anyone else
I like to think my policy is pretty reciprocal. Most of my friends I give books to without thinking about it now – they’ve borrowed so many that I know they’ll do the above without me having to ask, which is nice. New people though, get this lecture (and likely the Death Note story behind it as well).
So there’s my harrowing tale of betrayal and why I’m now such a stickler when it comes to borrowing books. I’ve had a gruesome past and I’ve grown from it /dramaticexit