How to Arrange Your Lover’s Library

by Alex Epstein

This was only a rather old dictionary with a ragged cover. He had no idea that for half a year the folded scrap of paper in D’s handwriting had been hidden inside.
They used to use the dictionary to play a game they invented. When it was his turn, he looked in the dictionary for an archaic and unfamiliar word and paired it with a definition that sounded logical. He presented the word to D along with the definition he invented and the definition from the dictionary.For example: Empasm: “A sudden, intense, and sympathetic feeling” or “A perfumed powder once used in healing.” She would have to choose which of the definitions was true. If she answered correctly—sometimes she simply knew the meaning of the word—it was her turn.
He leafed through the dictionary and remembered with a smile how she once tried to deceive him and made up a word that didn’t exist: “to rain continuously, to rain both day and night” or “one hundred seventy cubits, ten times an elephant’s height.”
The old dictionary stood to the right of one the spaces that opened up when she left. He had only meant to take it off of the shelf, to clear out a place for the new and used books he bought. He had already obtained copies of most of her books. “If only we could arrange it all differently,” she wrote. “Like cummings’ spring. Fraction of flower here, placing an inch there, and without breaking anything.”

From Lunar Savings Time, Clockroot Books. From the Hebrew: Becka Mara McKay.