four dreams. pt. 4 (although this one is less related to the others, it still came in the same week. the location differs, but the theme stays.)
The smell of Dover thrift and Starbucks filled my nose as i walked through the door. A queue of people wound their way around the many well organised and well stocked shelves and comfy armchairs. I made my way to the back of the line. "Barnes and Noble, how may help you" poured softly into my left ear and the sound of the children's story corner worked on my right. I couldnt see the head of the line, no matter how i stood on tiptoes and craned my neck from side to side. so i settled for the pull of the crowd to direct me.
The lady ahead of me had two wiggling and wet-nosed children by her side and at intervals, one or both of them looked up at me, while shyly gnawing their fingers in curiosity. I didnt blame them for their silent inquiery, i must have looked so strange to them. The last few years had been rough, and my appearance proved tattle to it. My eyes had aquired permanent black rings and wrinkles from squinting against tiredness. My once red hair was dulled with grey, despite my only 26 years and made for a strange comparison with my still detectable youth. a sad contrast. Yet, i could have, perhaps, still pulled off my age with a box of hair dye had it not been for the tragedy of my hands. Small and afflicted with a permanent shake, calcium buildups and premature arthritis caused my fingers to rest in a constant state of atrophy, the position of holding a pen. Due to the lack of movement in the fingers, they were always stark white and red knuckled, drained of joy and circulation. They could no longer hold a book open much less a bow. The little white paws could no longer type, much less press strings or keys. I shoved them deeper into my pockets and forced a smile at the kids who quickly turned and began bothering their mother for a trip to KB Toys.
The weight in my bag began to make itself known, wrenching and pulling at my right shoulder. I wondered if i was losing my mind. It felt like someone had slipped a thousand pound weight in their while i was making faces at the kids, but i knew if i were to look, all i would find was a few stray tic tacs, a gum wrapper, a key, and two dollars with odd change. and the book.
Hardcover and bound in black and navy. The face on the shiny dustjacket laughed up at me before i shut the latch on my purse. I quickly looked at the beige berber, the colored cacauphony of the bookshelves, the flurries of snow scuttering by outside the windows, anything to clear that image from my head. The face that had follwed me, caught in my own reflection, for years. In every mirror, in every widowpane, and in the reflections of failed substitues' eyes, always flat and cold and shiny, like a portrait, like a picture, like the cover of the book.
Hmph. I let out a heavy breath. My shoulder was aching, my hands, shaking a bit more than usual. The line had moved ahead considerably since i had joined the pull and threr were more behind me than ahead. Between shapes of waiting figures, i could see a smallish white table with a blue table skirt marking it's importance. Once in a while, i caught a glimpseof a hand writing, or an elbow being leaned on., but 5'2 doesnt allow much of a vantage point. Ahh, dammit! Was every of age female in the population shooting out babies like chubby, pink scud missiles every nine months? Another toddler set was behind me, wiggling and bumping away at my already weak knees. I tried to set myself at a safe distance between litters but i still had a tough time restraining my foot from delivering a couple of swift back kicks.
The smells of pastry and designer drinks wafted over from the nearby cafe. I could have used a good dark steep, but the line was evermoving and i was close.
If you have ever seen a grand finally of fireworks, you may have some idea of what my thought process was like at this point. Exploding and shooting a rainbow of sparks, a show of wild abandonment of grace and order for chaos. And always, there was the weight of my bag on my shoulder threatening to pull me to the floor, and i wished i could let it, but i kept on. The only thing that kept me up was the intermediate rushed of adrenaline through my bloodstream and the fear that if i fainted, i would be at the mercy of the crowd of mothers and spit-fingered toddlers. No no, my heart would keep pumping and my lungs would keep breathing.
I reached for my book as the last group moved from between myself and the table. My shaky steps forwards were propelled by a push from one of the insistent offspring at my rear. (if they were just a bit smaller and i a bit bigger, i would have stepped on them.) I set my book on the table. The author didnt look up. Instead, he continued to rub the spot on his nose where his glasses waited to rest again. He looked tired and a little hungry. I could also see the beginning of my own tragedy in his right hand. I took another breath and pushed the book under his nose.
A bit startled, he looked up with exhaustion bleared eyes. At first, he said nothing and reached for the book as he already had done a hundred or so times this morning. THen, however, his hand stopped. I breathed sharply. He cracked his knuckles and reached for the book. He wearily pulled out his pen, a nice black liquid roller, and began to sign his name. I watched like a statue, things moved in slow motion. All was seemingly still except for the fluid motion of his pen. The only sound was the scratch of the ball tip on paper. I could hear the blood pumping in my ears. But he didnt stop, his name poured out of his pen like a ribbon of black silk.
"And who should i make this out to?" he quiestioned as he put his last flourish on his last name.
"It's me." i said softly.
"The author looked as though he had been let down from strings attached to the ceiling. He fell forward will all his weight, his short fall broken by his pen, which cracked slightly at the tip from the sudden pressure. A great blot of black ink began to spread on the title page of the book, as realization and something like astonishment spread over his weary, unshaven face. I stood still, no knowing what to do or say, and even if i did, i was completely frozen in a tight posture of anticipation.
He slowly, uncertainly raised himself off of his folding chair and stood, stock still, mouth slightly open, pen still poised in mid-air. i could only mirror his reaction. And so, there we stood, like statues, as a world of color and sound blurred by on all sides. We just stood for the centuries of a minute, and the only things that existed were ourselves, reflected in eachother's eyes, as his broken pen dripped black and aching tears for the sorrow of it all.
click here for pts. 1, 2, 3 part one part two part three