Sunday, August 05, 2007


There was a girl I met in college about 20 years ago. What I remember about her was that she had a (for want of a better word) snarky wit. Nowadays, most people agree that snarky should mean short-tempered and acidic; here, I want it to mean a combination of sneaky and sarcastic, snappish perhaps, and very entertaining. She also had a lovely smile.

About six years ago, I found a new bookstore – not a large one, but one which stocked a good quantity of the sort of stuff I read. It had sprouted in one of my favourite buildings. Intrigued, I walked in, and there she was. Same old person, maybe a bit older in the eyes, just as cheerful in the smile. What a wonderful surprise! So I added that little shop to the list of stores which I routinely visited. Over the years, I must have bought a fair number of books there.

Yesterday, she told me, "You're still on my database, and if I ever decide to start up again, I'll let you know. I guess I'll still bump into you once in a while here?"

It was pretty sad. The little shop was closing. It was half an hour before the hammer fell. Books were going at $1 per book, $10 for all you could take. I regretted not bringing the Golden Horde, but Trivandrum and Augury were around and walked off with something like 60 books between them. I took four. Four? Only four? Yes, only four. In the last days, I'd been picking off what I wanted.

The shop took a long time to die, it seemed. But yesterday, it felt like vultures over corpses. If it had been any other place, I would have cheerfully walked off with a ton of books. Here, I was just sad. The wiring and lighting were being stripped out. In a way, it was like participating at a wake for an old friend. My acolytes (no, I don't think they really want to be called that) were assisting in the funeral arrangements. I said my last goodbyes to her, remembering what it was like when we were young.

Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum sed favilla...

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