I tell Tano to leave me alone with my shelves. "Just give me your screwdriver," I tell him. "I'll put them together myself." I've had to put these shelves together four times, and now I know their Ikea intricacies better than any of the men who bought them for me.

I have to love my shelves more than my books because I didn't qualify for unemployment checks and now I have to sell my books. Not all my books. Just the hardbacks. Paperbacks aren't worth enough. Now I'm wishing I bought all paperbacks so my books would be worth nothing and I could be starving on the street with them. Instead, I am rich. Well, rich in shelf space.

Tano is respacing the shelves and he keeps calling the shelves Ivars. It's like he's insane, like he's an Ikea marketing manager or something. "That's what the shelves are called," he says. He says, "I need another Ivar," like they're his.

I tell Tano, "I always put twelve inches between the first two shelves."

Tano says, "Uh huh." And he measures out eight inches.

Letting a guy put his books next to mine is much more intimate than sleeping with him.

I try not to be critical, but it's hard.

Tano has more than enough books to fill my empty shelves.

I want to see the emptiness. I want to sulk with it. You know when you have a boyfriend and he dumps you and you get really sad because you imagined your future with this guy—even if you knew in the back of your head it wasn't really plausible—and then he dumps you and you want everyone to go away so you can concentrate on the emptiness he caused? That's how I feel about the unemployment checks.

Madlyn's Life Story Before It's Too Late | Home