Dispatches | April 22, 2015

By Rachel Rowsey

“Hey, what if we started a book club? But like, we were the only people in the club.”

I said this to Brad, my boyfriend, one fateful day in 2014. Nothing came of it right away, but when my birthday rolled around in August, he presented me with a box full of books. He’d written a list of all the books along with explanations for why I was receiving them, and Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay and How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia by Mohsin Hamid all came with a little caveat: he also had a copy.

These were all books I’d been talking about reading for a long time, so they were a good start for our tiny book club. But alas, it was the middle of a high-stress semester, and we didn’t crack open any of the books until winter break. I was going on vacation with Brad and his family, and a four-hour plane ride seemed like the perfect opportunity to actually do the thing we’d been talking about for a year.

But here’s the thing with reading the same book as the person next to you: it quickly becomes a race. We started with Eleanor & Park, which is a really quick read, and I could see him flipping pages alongside me. “Does he think he can read faster than me?” I thought. “Is he finding out stuff before me? What’s happening in his book?”

So I became diligent. I didn’t daydream; I didn’t pause to look out the window of the giant metal bird we were flying inside. I just flipped the pages. When it was announced that our in-flight movie was going to be The Hundred-Foot Journey, I was torn. I’d already seen the movie, but I liked it and wanted to take advantage of a good in-flight movie experience (on my last transcontinental flight, I watched The Internship twice). But what if Brad surged ahead of me while I was watching it? Was it worth the risk?

I decided that it was, and because Brad started reading later than me, I had some room to breathe. I settled in for the delightful tale of competing restaurateurs in idyllic France. And I fell asleep.

In retrospect, I don’t know how I didn’t see it coming. I’m a naturally sleepy person, and we’d gotten up at 5 a.m. to go to the airport. I woke up, betrayed by my own body, and Brad was ahead of me in the book. He finished before we landed. “It was pretty good,” he said. “We can talk about it when you’re done.”

His face was smug. But in that I-love-you-so-you-can’t-get-mad-at-me kind of way — the worst kind. We had an hour-long bus ride from the airport, and you’d better believe that we spent the entire ride in silence while I finished the rest of the book. Vacation? No. It was war.

This war continued on into our actual vacation time. When we went out to the pool, I looked to see if he was bringing his copy of Bad Feminist. If he was bringing his, I was bringing mine. “Honey, do you want to order lunch? They have a pasta salad.” NOT THIS TIME, MISTER. You think I’m going to let you trick me into putting down this book to munch on cold pasta? No way.

I was coming off a loss, and this only increased my motivation to win. I finished Bad Feminist mid-way through the vacation. Brad, defeated, put down his copy and picked up Pillars of the Earth, a book I’d given him for Hannukah a full year prior that he still hadn’t finished. To put it lightly, dude’s in a lot of book-reading debt.

I, on the other hand, am scot-free. I finished How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia on the plane ride home, making the “Books Received and Read” tally in our relationship Rachel: 5, Brad: 0. Love you, babe!

The R&B Ginuwine Book Club for Frequent Flyers is currently on hiatus.

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