I stared at the Bukh for a long time. Tentatively, I reached out and stroked its cover. My fingers came away dusty. I thought to myself how eerie and wonderful it was to touch something that ancient. According to Eric Schindler, the wisdom of the Bukh had been passed down orally until sometime in the middle ages when a forbear of the Gurevich family who’d emigrated from the Levant to the Rhine Valley had begun writing bits and pieces on paper. These early pages were included and built upon in the first known edition of the Bukh — not the one I was staring at at this very moment in Austin,Texas, but very likely one of its predecessors that had been copied and re-copied as it traveled with various Gurevich family members through medieval Europe. How many Bukhs were still in existence? Perhaps only this one, that sat on my desk like a live creature, some kind of puffed up cat that one couldn’t resist touching and petting.
And that’s the thing. As I stared at the Bukh, it seemed to pulsate ever so slightly. At first I couldn’t believe it. I looked and looked away, looked and looked away, and each time, for the briefest second, a haze that was like a throbbing shimmer seemed to rise from the Bukh. I had once taken a hallucinatory drug that was part of a religious service, and seen candles on an altar table flame high and go dim, surge and flatten each time the gathered participants chanted the word “Jesus.” It took me a few moments to understand that what I was seeing was true, that the drug (ayahuasca) had opened a conduit in my brain that allowed me to have a glimpse into another, usually closed off realm.
At least that was my belief then. But sitting here now with the Bukh, I had taken no drugs and been transported to no other realm. I could see with my naked eye that an almost imperceptible glow emanated from the Bukh, causing it to seem as if it were alive. And then I thought maybe it was alive — maybe that irreducible, unquantifiable essence that was synonymous with life, movement, consciousness, was held between the covers of this remarkable book.
I sat there staring at it for a long time. It wasn’t lost on me that there was a dark side to possession of the Bukh, that a lot of bad things had happened in its name, and that even such a relatively small occurrence as my tires being slashed in the night might have to do with the presence of the Bukh in my house. For a moment I wanted to box it back up, send it off to Eric as fast as possible. But I couldn’t. Instead I continued to stare at it almost as if I were in a trance. Then gingerly I opened it to its first page. Tucked into the cover was an envelope with a name scrawled across the front: NICOLE.