Searching for Books in the Dark
He stood in front of the mirror generously applying the shaving cream. With the razor blade he removed his mustache in a few quick gestures, splashed water over his face and said, “Well, what do you think?”
“Perfect,” I said.
He took off his shirt and jumped into bed.
He ran his hand down the length of my leg synchronizing this act with the movement of his face against my neck.
We arrived in a dusty town after a long and quiet bus ride. The driver gave us flashlights and a map. He reminded us that we only had two hours to find what we needed. I imagined he wasn’t the type to wait for any stragglers, even if we were in the middle of nowhere. I decided not to follow the group and took a different set of stairs. They were curiously wide with double yellow rails. I descended for what felt like too many minutes without any indication that I was heading in the right direction. Finally, I noticed one of the landings had a wooden door. I kicked it hard several times before it budged and let me in.
The map was useless. I studied it more closely and became aware of the smeared ink the driver used to outline the path to the basement. Clever man. He doesn’t care if we make it out of here or not. I tossed it aside and went into a massive room with a low ceiling. It was too cold, so I moved quickly to see if there were any other doors.
I went through the first door I found and entered yet another room, bigger than the first, but filled with what I came searching for.
Stacks of books everywhere, old and sacred editions, books banned in previous centuries, and books I didn’t recognize. Perhaps they had not been written yet, or else simply imaginary. I thought I was alone, but someone tapped me on the shoulder and startled me.
A woman with dark brown hair, over six feet tall and a lovely smile greeted me.
“Amazing, isn’t it?” she said.
Due to her unusually pretty countenance I fumbled through my words.
“Oh, yes,” I said. “I’ve come a long way to see this.”
“I thought you might like this,” she said, handing me a small paperback. The cover had a brown background with a sombrero resting on the ground.
I read the blurb. It was a father/daughter tale…Lolitaesque and of partial interest to me since I still don’t know how I feel about what many consider to be one of the best novels of the 20th century. Nevertheless, I expressed interest in her choice. After all, how can I not appreciate the boldness of a woman confident enough to approach me this way?
Others began to enter the room. We were separated briefly until she found me again with another recommendation. A dusty, old edition of The Sun Also Rises. She opened it and raised the pages.
For me, the scent of old books is like sucking on a cherry lollipop. A mouth watering effect.
But how does she know this?
Commotion was heard above and the doors had shut. Quickly, I bought the Hemingway for €3.88 and started to run. The ceiling was beginning to cave in. I looked for the woman on my way out, but she was gone. I sprinted up the stairs and slowed down as the flashlight flickered. Cheap flashlight, too? The driver was a real businessman.
Luckily, there were others beside me. Collectively, we guided each other up another long flight of stairs. Probably one of the creepiest staircases I’ve ever seen in a dream. We reached the exit, where the driver was yelling at everyone. The bus was leaving in two minutes. I ran and made it just in time. I thought I would see the mysterious woman board the bus, but she never arrived. Sitting in the bus with the windows down I realized how difficult it was to breathe in that place.