Shelf upon shelf, mounds covering the tables, precarious piles on the floor. The landscape before her was truly breathtaking. It was a cornucopia of language that the erudite might have otherwise over looked, due to its all too shabby presentation. For her, it was like a jewel encrusted sword kept in a hand wrought leather sheath. It seemed that the playing field had been levelled. Classics stood shoulder to shoulder with Sci-fi. Spiritual guidance flanked relationship advice “best-sellers” and Philosophy leaned against chick-lit for support. The lack of organization only appealed to her even more.
Her fingertips brushed tremulously against the spines as she walked past. As if she realized the expanse of the worlds they contained, she read their titles eagerly like travel guides. She didn’t dare pick up any, for fear she would lose herself. Pre-loved in condition, and clearly only previously loved, they seemed to lay patiently in wait, to provide again the comfort and company they had once provided another.
Her reverently slow round had been continuing for only a few minutes that her finger got caught into the tear in one the spines. She froze immediately, eyes widening, for fear that this sacrilegious snag would damage the book further. Looking down, the downy, ancient leather cover, the heavy yellowing pages beckoned to her. The sallow skin of a fortune-telling gypsy woman perhaps enveloped in a burgundy shawl; it seemed to hold answers to thousands of questions her mind even had yet to procure.
She lifted it to her nose on a whim, opened at some random page, and inhaled, her eyes closed. A thousand sensations were summoned by that smell, countless revelations, childhood protestations, frantic academic pursuits, a bottomless throb of melancholy and so much more. The list was endless.
Her eyes opened of their own accord and locked with those of the elderly salesclerk who stood across the room. His raised eyebrow was encouragement enough for her to decide to make her departure. While closing the book gingerly, she couldn’t help but notice that the pages were blank, unmarked. Sniffing, she gave off an air of forced haughtiness and stood tall once again. She had neither the means nor the time to give a home to one of these, but her pride wouldn’t allow her to betray her aching disappointment. She left without a single backward glance, knowing she’d be coming some time soon, to carry out the same ritual again.