The sentence that ate Colorado

BolanoI took refuge in a Barnes & Noble while waiting for the fire trucks to pull away from in front of the Apple Store, which I was unceremoniously kicked out of (along with everybody else) when they evacuated it, because “We still can’t figure out what that smell is,” not that I could actually smell anything, but a teenager being kicked out beside me said it smelled like burning computers, which I suppose could be evidence that your sense of smell for burning computers, like your hearing for high-frequency sounds, deteriorates as the rest of you deteriorates into senescence, or else that burning computers emit some chemical that I’m genetically incapable of smelling, just like whatever it is that asparagus is supposed to do to your urine, or else that the teenager was just hallucinating, and while I’m in the Barnes & Noble I notice a couple of bookcases of Spanish books and decide that I might as well buy one for practice in reading Spanish, seeing as the firetrucks look like they’re going to be there all night, so I pick out a copy of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, which I’d seen the English translation of in the discount racks of the McNally-Robinson’s in Winnipeg and almost bought because the blurb seemed interesting, except it looked so heavy and I was feeling lazy that day, so I didn’t buy it, but now I have a second chance at getting the book, in the original language this time, and I grab that chance, and after finally dropping my computer off for repair at the Apple Store (which didn’t want to take it that night even after the fire trucks drove away because they said they were now closed, except I gave them my patented “what-you-do-next-will-determine-how-many-limbs-you-have-for-the-rest-of-your-life” glare, and they let me leave it), I take the book, all 1125 pages of it, back home and begin to read it, and read some more of it the next day, and the next, but soon I’m beginning to admit to myself that perhaps 2666 wasn’t the wisest choice of a novel for an utter beginner in Spanish-novel-reading, even with the help of the handy-dandy dictionary on my laptop which allows me to look up unfamiliar words in approximately 0.3 seconds, a feature which I use approximately every 0.4 seconds, though I manage to delude myself as I go along that perhaps I’m getting the hang of this Spanish thing, when I reach a sentence that begins halfway down page 33 and still hasn’t finished by the bottom of the page, which doesn’t faze me, since I’ve heard rumours that Spanish novels often have long sentences and at least I don’t have to wait all the way to the end for the verb like in Dutch, and with excitement at my long-sentence-reading accomplishment I flip over the page, eagerly anticipating the climactic finale of this sentence, except the sentence continues all the way to the bottom of page 34, then all the way through page 35, (flip) then all the way through page 36, (my bladder is beginning to protest at this point, but I don’t dare stop because I’d lose my place and have to begin the sentence all over again) then all the way through page 37, (flip) then all the way through page 38, and then finally at long last, halfway down page 39, there’s a period, oh joy of joys, and I breathe a sigh of relief, and as a reward I’m finally treated (after a trip to the bathroom) to the first actual exchange of dialogue in the novel, and I’m thinking that maybe I’m not quite ready for Roberto Bolaño yet, at least until next week, when, through a combination of sleep deprivation and insufficient oxygen, I’ll decide that my Spanish ability has magically increased a hundredfold without the slightest effort on my part and I’ll again take up the book.

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