Posted by: pendrops | September 19, 2007

and found

used_books.jpg

“I don’t think we have that one,” the old man with predominant ear hair said to me. “I don’t know where to keep her books…she’s all over the place,” he said, leaving me in the children’s section holding a copy of A Wrinkle in Time.

My shoulders slumped as I thought about these discouraging words from the man who’s worked at Elder’s Books longer than I’ve been alive, telling myself he certainly knew what he was talking about when he said he didn’t have the obscure copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s Walking on Water.

Still, some unwarranted sliver of expectation prodded me and pushed me down the messy aisles, where finding a specific book in the stacks rising toward the 25-foot-high ceiling is, forgive the cliché, a needle-in-haystack-type pursuit. I walked around the used bookstore, hoping against hope, that among the 50,000 second-hand books there existed a copy of my book.

You see, I could buy the brand new copy at Borders and have these intentions since dude has made me doubt the existence of a used copy. But I have a love affair with used books.

“I love inscriptions on flyleaves and notes in margins, I like the comradely sense of turning pages someone else has turned, and reading passages some one long gone has called my attention to.”

Helene Hanff says that in her precious little book, 84, Charing Cross Road. I dare say I could not express my love of used books better.

But I digress…

I’m in the used bookstore, browsing fiction, reasoning that maybe L’Engle is shelved there. She is a fiction writer, I tell myself. But she’s not there; at least not where she should be…in the L’s.

Resolving to leave with one ratty consolation book, I accidentally glance down at the bottom shelf of the A’s and spy a blue-and-white spine with the words “Walking on Water” in bold blue letters.

But I have already been told by the all-knowing owner that this book is not in the store, so it can’t be. Still, in the serendipitous micro-second it takes me to shake my head and blink, I see “L’Engle” in the same bold letters of the spine.

I grasp the book and hold it to my chest, hugging it like an old friend, though we’ve only just met. But, in some inexplicable way, we are old friends, because old friends are the ones who say things that get to the heart of matters, your heart matters. And, when they do, you can’t help hugging them, kissing them even.

Take, for example, L’Engle’s words about being that found me in my own search for my being:

“I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away from busyness, time to be. I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

After recovering from my disbelief and celebration, I rush to the antique oak desk covered in shuffled papers and scattered books where the owner’s wife sits. I am nearly in tears, stumbling over my explanation of how I’ve been looking for a used copy of this book and how the words within it have changed my life and your husband told me you didn’t have the book and it was in the wrong place and I just happened to glance down at the fiction section in the A’s and there she was, there was my dear new friend who knows me like an old companion, and I know I’m rambling and I’m weird . . . I’m a writer.

The usually reticent and sometimes surly owner’s wife cracks a smile, even laughs, and, when it is all said and done, I think she has ended up giving me one of the books for free.

(insert shrug)

And as I leave the unassuming bookstore, I remember something about lost sheep and lost coins and lost souls – sought against the odds. And found.

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Responses

  1. I like you. 🙂 I love your brilliant ramblings, your insights, your thoughts. .. it’s all wonderful and I love it!! You make me smile. I hope your writing career is going well. You certainly are talented!!

  2. Hey, I just realized that I don’t have your e-mail address. I believe you have mine. Would you mind e-mailing me so I have yours? I would like to ask you a few questions about your writing career. I’m doing a little exploring right now. Thanks!

  3. nicely related. I nearly celebrated with you (I’m at work so I couldn’t w00t too loud, and you gave away the suspense with your title).

    I like to be the first to open a book sidle up to the pages. Used books don’t feel comfortable in my hand, like I’m sitting in someone else’s favorite chair.


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