If You Go Home With Somebody and They Don’t Have Books…

Flash Fiction.

Scott Muska
6 min readJul 2, 2023

“You know I’m not going to sleep with you, right?” she says as she walks around my apartment in small circles, scrutinizing, giving herself the grand tour. She doesn’t wait for me to respond before she asks if I’d like to know why.

It’d be weird to say no, so I ask her to enlighten me. The potential reasons are endless and I’ve already begun rifling through them anxiously but curiously in my head. I’m also wondering if she means she’s not going to spend the night, or if she’s saying we’re going to refrain from getting to a certain level of physical intimacy. The term “sleeping together” has always seemed somewhat nebulous to me. Because you can — I’ve seen it and I’ve done it — pull a proper fuck and run where you get it in but still head on home to sleep comfortably in your own bed. I don’t want to say this is a common move of mine, unless it happens to be that I find myself in an abode where cats are roommates. Allergies are a powerful antigen to any kind of aphrodisiac.

“It looks like you don’t have any books,” she says.

“What?”

“Books. You don’t have any books around here.” She gestures around the studio, which takes a millisecond to do given the meager square footage. It’s a cogent observation. There is no bookshelf, not even a stack of books placed haphazardly in a dusty corner, and it’s pretty apparent I don’t have some sort of adjoining room that serves as an epic library.

I accept that this is probably unexpected and maybe even a little jarring, given that we’ve spent a pretty solid amount of time on our first two dates discussing our professions ad nauseam, and mine happens to be “writer.” Not having books around if you make a living mostly off the written word seems kind of like being a chef who doesn’t have a spice rack or a frying pan somewhere on their home turf. Admittedly, it is kind of embarrassing. But just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“Yes, and?” I say, playing along as I pour us both mason jar glasses of rosé from a semi-classy box I’ve had in my very small fridge for hopefully less than a month. (Don’t sleep on boxed wine. It has its merits, and you can take steps up from something like Franzia if you have the budget. And it can last a while. Or so I’ve been told. My boxes seems to disappear with a quickness, for whatever reason.)

“You don’t know about that John Waters quote? The one that’s like, ‘If you go home with somebody and they don’t have books, don’t fuck ‘em,’ or something close to that? I might be paraphrasing. But I like the sentiment. And you’ve gotta have some scruples, you know?”

“Nope. You got it right. To the word, I think. I’m familiar with the quote. I’m the kind of person who may have had it pasted to my wall in college, right next to my unframed Wet Hot American Summer poster.”

“Well, I see the poster has made it through the years — and kudos to you for acquiring a frame,” she says as she accepts her wine, moves a couple pillows and sits down on the couch, patting a cushion next to her, inviting me to pop a squat in my own home.

“Thank you. My mom got me the frame as a gift when I was moving into my first place by myself. I know it’s not the most mature decor, but I do have an enduring love for the movie. Never really gets old for me.”

“So are you saying you’re more of a movie buff, then? Not a reader?”

“Oh, I’m a reader. A voracious one. A real bookworm. I promise you that much. I’ve read more books at my age than most people read in their lifetime. You should see my Goodreads account. The breadth and depth might make your head spin. Sounds saccharine, but reading was my first love and I still love it more than most other activities. We can talk books all day. All night. We can even sit on the couch and Popcorn Read to each other.”

“Well, if we were going to have that conversation, now would be the time for you to start busting out your favorite volumes. You know, bring some props to aid the talk — maybe offer for me to borrow one or two that I haven’t yet read. And also, Popcorn Reading would be pretty lame with only two participants.”

“When you’re right, you’re right. Guess we’ll nix the Popcorn Reading for now. But how dare you presume I would lend a couple of my favorite books to you when I barely know you? You can pry them from me if we ever get to a point where we’re quote-unquote ‘sleeping together.’ But not until then. And if we reach that point, which I’m not saying we will, you’d better return them at some point. I’ve lost too many books to failed relationships. And it just adds to the pain every time.”

She looks around my sad single guy apartment again and says my becoming a lending library seems like a moot point anyway, since it’s apparent I don’t have much to offer from my personal library.

I counter that I don’t, not in a physical sense, say, “I should probably explain myself.”

“Go on,” she says.

So I get into how I’ve gone digital — that my collection of books and comics collection is split into two forums. I keep the majority of my favorite books at my parents’ house many hours away, because they have the space and I do not. And the rest, which is most of what I’ve purchased (and it’s a lot, an eclectic assortment to be sure) since making the move to New York, live on the Kindle app of my iPad.

“I’ve got so many books, but they’re in the cloud. I like the notion of being able to move around at a moment’s notice without carrying a ton of weight, minus the psychological. I try not to amass too much stuff, because you never know what you’re going to really want to or be able to take with you.”

“Oh wow, you made that move, huh?”

“I get that it’s frowned upon by many. But it was mostly out of necessity. I don’t have the room — the physical space — to house the books that feel so good to have in your hands, and I know a digital collection pales in comparison to a more analog approach, and certainly limits my ability to show off the writers I love in this apartment. And I know it can be a significant thing, a connective tissue, a conversation starter, but sometimes when it comes to living where you want and doing what you want, you have to make some sacrifices. Even if it means taking away an element that could help one get laid.”

“Well, when you put it that way it makes complete sense — and now I feel bad.”

“You don’t need to feel bad,” I say as I get off the couch and grab my iPad. “I get where you’re coming from. And like you said, you’ve gotta have some scruples.”

I fire up the Kindle app and hand her the tablet, tell her to go ahead and take a look at my copious digital library. While she scrolls through I call out that I don’t have records lying around my apartment either, but that I can fire up something nice via a Bluetooth speaker from a Spotify playlist. I open the app on my phone and choose an album by The National. Soon as it starts playing she calls out that it’s an interesting choice, given the band’s generally somber (to an occasionally worrying degree) offerings.

“Well, I felt it was kind of premature to put on my ‘Boner Jamz’ playlist,” I say.

She shakes her head and says it’s cool — that she actually loves the band.

“Well, I guess that’s one thing we got,” I say.

Later on, after hours of talking about our favorite books and music, she asks if it’d be okay if she stayed.

I have no qualms with this whatsoever.

And you know what? She seems to enjoy the “Boner Jamz” playlist.

Thank you so much for reading. Check out more of my writing on my Substack, “I Thought This Was Worth Sharing.”

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Scott Muska

I write books, ads and some other stuff. (You can find the books on Amazon.)