The first time I read Rachel Levitsky’s The Story of My Accident is Ours I was on the airplane en route to Rachel’s home. The couple sitting next to me was in the process of breaking up and getting back together again several times on this cross-country flight. During especially heated moments between the couple, I was reading pages from Rachel’s book like “The Lover,” which begins “To look at a lover from any angle is the meaning of love.” I wanted to read this page out loud to them because I thought it might be helpful in a very immediate and literal way, but I couldn’t bring myself to interrupt them. Instead I read it out loud inside my head.
I overheard bits and pieces of their arguments. Then the man said to the woman, “I don’t even know what we’re arguing about anymore. I can’t remember what went wrong.” I read to the end of this same page: “Still, we often feel as though we could die of this world; we often do.” Somehow, this moment began to feel like it must be a critical moment in my life so I read this page again. I became mesmerized by it, and found myself unable to turn the page. “Our container explodes, we refit accordingly.”
I was devastated and started to cry just a little bit. The woman said to the man, “See? You’re making us both cry now.” I didn’t look up at them. I just kept reading and rereading this same page about the lovers. “This is the meaning of love.”
This page became a world that I could easily empathize with, while at the same time, it became a world so unlike anything on Earth. There are things that happen, and I didn’t quite know how I got there. This would make me read back a bit more. I love when books make me do this. It’s a kind of gentle force that demands that you look again. And every time, it became new and new and new. As I write these sentences here, I’m realizing that this is exactly like everything on Earth. I contradict myself, as do the lovers.
I don’t know what happened to that couple who was next to me. I wish I would have just interrupted them both, and read out loud to them. Not that it would have changed their outcome, but that the strange world in My Accident is Ours might have offered them a place of refuge as it has for me.