Steven’s Blood Pressure, Rachel’s Ambivalence about Christianity, and the Secrets Tucked Away in Used Books
I don’t know Steven from the man in the moon, but I do know his blood pressure. It is 142 over 94 (or it was in May of 2004). I know this because I just bought a used cookbook from Amazon.com, and Steven left a bit of his medical information tucked between its pages.
I prefer used books to new. They can be purchased for a song, and while that, in and of it’s self, is reason enough, it isn’t the only thing I love about them. I love that there are clues about the previous owner(s) written in the margins, scribbled on the back covers, and tucked between the pages.
Take Rachel, for example. I don’t know her anymore than I know Steven, but I do know quite a bit about her based on a used NIV translation of the Bible I purchased a couple of years ago. I know that her grandparents were still alive in 2007. I know, or assume with good reason, that said grandparents were Christians. That they thought Rachel either needed or wanted a Bible for Christmas that year.
What I don’t know about Rachel is what makes me prefer this Bible to a brand new copy. Does she dislike the way the scripture reads in NIV, or has she no use for a Bible? Is it the lack of thumb index that turned her off? Is she atheist? I like seeing her name and wondering about her. I like sharing a secret with this women (girl?) whom I’ll never meet. But back to Steven…
Steven, it seems, went to a clinic in Laurel, Maryland and was told that his blood pressure was elevated. This was in 2004. This was the year my husband turned 30. The year I stayed home full time with my baby daughter. The doctor gave Steven a slip of paper, a patient eduction flyer, about the ailment. It outlined parameters of normal blood pressure, a description of what the top and bottom numbers represent, and ended with a list of tips for lowering blood pressure: Lose weight if you are overweight. Limit daily alcohol intake. Increase aerobic activity to 30 to 45 minutes most days. On and on. One wet blanket piled on top of another.
Steven wrote his blood pressure on the flyer in ink. He must have taken it seriously. It appears he had good intentions for lowering his blood pressure through behavior modifications. The cookbook I bought from Amazon.com, the cookbook that once belonged to Steven, was a South Beach Cookbook, so clearly he was trying to take a few pounds off. And knowing that, knowing so much private information about a complete and total stranger, makes me want to know more.
Did Steven get his blood pressure under control? Did he have to go on Lisinopril? Did he get any weight off? Did he sell this book after mastering the skill of cooking food with a low-glycemic index, or did he get rid of it because he never used it?
The notes we make in our books, the makeshift bookmarks we leave between their pages, are good stories. They are stories within stories and totally worth a ripped dust jacket.