Last weekend I read for 15 hours and 48 minutes.789 pages. Two whole books and 250 pages combined between another two.
I signed up for the 24in48 Readathon at the last minute, part desire to get out of reading a book a fortnight, part distraction from my upcoming travel plans and general uncertainty. It was great. I was elated, I was tired, I developed a splitting headache at one point. I’d forgotten the joy of being drunk and then hungover on stories.
Each rare period of immersion I go through reminds me of a handful of moments, vivid in my memory only because I did one thing, so intensely and for hours without stopping.
I remember reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, aged nine at most, tucked in a small, hard bed in a static caravan. I was on holiday with my gran, the nights were cold, our caravan that trip was in a deep ditch, which I exaggerate in my memory as a crater. I finished the book at 6am and staggered to my gran’s room, lying that I’d been trying but unable to sleep the whole night. I slept in her bed until 2pm the next afternoon. To this day, it’s the only time I’ve stayed up all night reading.
I remember staying up all night to finish a meticulous collage for art homework. I fell asleep in the next day’s maths lesson and the homework hadn’t been worth the effort at all. I remember the 8 hours every Sunday for a year I practised dancing, throwing flags, running gracefully. I remember the one night I stayed awake talking, kissing, learning what it is to be lost in another person.
I remember the year I won National Novel Writing Month, having given up in the second week. In the last two days of the November I wrote 24,000 words. I stopped only for the bathroom, a wash and to run my hands in ice cold water, holding off the pain for another sprint. I ate at my computer. I lost track of plot and skill, running on twitter dares. I don’t remember the characters or scenes. But I remember the friends and strangers cheering me on, the euphoria when I reached fifty thousand words with precious minutes to spare.
I remember, immersed in reading or writing or people, my own potential. My own capacity to surprise myself, to dedicate myself. I remember why I love the things I love.
I think I’ll take part in the next one.