You trace the mismatched spines in the stale basement, pausing. Fingering through yellowed leaves you smile to yourself, mouthing words to yourself, sharing revelations with yourself. You make a gap on the top shelf, showing me where his books will fit when he writes them, where yours will fit if you take his last name, gathering dust, graying, dropping in price, losing their worth. I can’t catch a full breath, perching on a stepstool.
You slowly add to the stack in your arms, holding piles of massacred forests against your heart, making a home for yourself between the covers. You’re buying romance, religion, reality, to flip through and then stack on a shelf, alphabetically. I can’t understand your fascination, sipping at coffee.
You are speaking in tongues of rhetoric and narrative, tossing Woolf and Joyce and Nouwen and Eggers all together. I can’t pretend to listen to you much longer.
“You need to find someone who’ll wander shelves with you in stuffy bookstores. Someone who loves this as much as you do.” “I know.”
Your eyes are back on that top shelf, hands reaching for the space that holds an impossible fantasy. Tomes topple from your arms, laying where they fall like so many corpses, lifeless. You kneel in their midst. I can’t see your face anymore. Don’t hide from me.