I wake with a start. It’s pitch dark. I hear noises. My alarm clock shows 2am. I close my eyes again. Only to open them the next moment. Someone is moving around the house. Now they are in the office. My heart begins to race. Eventually I pluck up courage and get out of bed.
I pass by the storage room and pick up a broom. With this weapon in my hand I approach the closed office door. Dim light is seeping through the gap at the bottom. Very quietly I push the handle down, holding my breath.
Peirene! She is sitting at my desk, with her back towards me, staring at the computer screen. She is so engrossed, she doesn’t hear anything. I sneak up behind her. Images of a man flicker across the screen.
I’m shocked. ‘What are doing?,’ I exclaim.
The Nymph jumps and closes the window immediately. ‘You frightened me!’ She turns, flashing her eyelashes at me innocently.
‘Who was that?’ I point to the now blank screen.
Peirene shrugs her shoulders. ‘What do you mean? … Nothing. I’m just doing some research.’
‘At 2 o’clock in the morning?’
She nods. ‘I couldn’t sleep… because… because.’ She suddenly clicks the internet window open again. She clearly can no longer wait to show me. ‘Look, isn’t he handsome,’ she coos.
I glance over her shoulder. ‘Roberto Calasso, the Italian publisher,’ I notice in surprise.
Peirene nods dreamily. ‘I’ve just finished reading his new book The Art of the Publisher. He and I are soul mates.’ She sighs. ‘He knows my heart.’ She picks up the book. ‘Listen to this: “All books published by a certain publisher… are fragments in a single work.” The art of publishing is “the capacity to give form to a plurality of publications as though they were the chapters making up one book.”’ Peirene strokes the man’s cheek on her screen. ‘Isn’t that precisely what we are doing? But neither you nor I were ever able to express it so succinctly.’
‘It’s a rare little book, ‘ I agree. ‘It made me feel proud and dignified of our profession like nothing else I’ve ever read. But…’I pause, wondering for a second how to persuade Peirene to get some sleep. ‘I’m sure Calasso wouldn’t approve of wasting one’s valuable sleep time in front of the internet.’
The Nymph shakes her head. ‘He and I are in communion tonight. I feel it. I will stay up a little bit longer.’
I decide to let her be and scurry back to my bed. At least one of us needs to be well-rested.
Image by Zabara Alexander, creative commons.