AND THEN A BEAR APPEARED AMONG THE PAGES
2023 begins with a new series of short stories. Our Wonnie bookmark appears among the pages of playful, introspective, adventure books, that we try to explore as well.
Under the city covered walkways, used books stands are similar to cathedrals, perfectly drawn buildings. The stacks of yellow paper – standing more or less orderly – are the spires of an Art Nouveau palace which is still being created, a Sagrada Familia project that will never be revealed.
My passion for reading goes along with that for those volumes that used to be owned by other people. Not simply for justifiable economic reasons, but also because the stories they keep relate to their past owners. Everytime I find dog-eared pages, for example, I read them greedily, searching for that quote or those words that caught the reader’s attention. Sometimes you’re lucky and you find underlines; in case they’re not there, you have to express intuition and sensibility.
I share these passions with Anna, who has had a book stand here for decades. I’ve never understood how profitable such activity can be, but I can tell you that she does that in a very passionate way, with the same passion she gives us all. I met her in my student days, when I needed cheap texts, and we’re still very close.
‘Hi Anna, what’s on the menu today?’
‘Oh, Rebecca! It’s you!’ she says coming out of some towers of books she tries to organize unsuccessfully. ‘Why are you not in class?’
‘It’s my day off, dear, sometimes we deserve it as teachers too! What can I buy today?’
‘La moustache by Emmanuel Carrère, my dear, no doubt! An investigation of the human soul that…’
‘Anna, it’s the novel you sold me when we first met, I read it ten years ago!’ I say, laughing about years passing with kindness and grace.
‘Sorry, I’m so distracted. What about this Sartre? It has just arrived’
‘I am team de Beauvoir, sorry. You should know that!’
‘Ugh, it’s getting worse…anyway: take a look at this!’ she says as she takes out a red book. It’s a volume I’ve never seen before, with an inlaid flower cover, only apparently ordinary. It’s not a used one, it’s brand new.
My fingers run through the pages, the text is soaked, full of words. A novel about a female bookseller, about a shop that has served the city center for many years. It’s about time passing by and online book commerce, it’s about business that gives up to create some space for something new.
I don’t know how I can realize all this in few seconds, the impression is that I’ve known this story for a long time. There is a bookmark, a balsa wood stick with the face of a polar bears coming out. It is placed among the pages, very close to a written in italics. An inscription.
to all the readers
both female and male
for whom it’s worth choosing the right words
A tear falls down my face, lit by the sun.
My heart is exploding, I search for her in the crowd, I call her.
‘Anna, why didn’t you tell me that you wrote a novel? Where are you?’
The stand is empty, the wind blows through piles of paper smelling different stories.
Anna is not here. I ask about her to all the other booksellers, they say she didn’t show up this morning.
My arms hold a rare book, its cover is made of inlaid flowers, it was published many years ago.
I leave ten Euros on the desk, blocked under a rare edition.
As I go back to my bicycle, I wonder if Anna ever existed, if she ever sold me the books that shaped my education, if the many literary discussions we had through the years were actually monologues.
My heart is exploding, the sky is the perfect vision of blue in winter.
Anna, I’m sure of it, is opening a bookstore somewhere in the world.
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