A Bookstore Story

May 21, 2007

It was right around Valentine’s day freshman year, and I was convinced I had met the first great love of my life, as corny as that sounds.

February the fourteenth was fast approaching, and I dreaded it. It was going to ruin my budding love story. It meant expectations, it was commercial, and it was inauthentic, all unappealing prospects before even a second movie date had come around.

I did have other things on my mind, however, at least some of the time, besides the mysterious new boy, and it so happened that I had penciled in a lecture on Iraq at the XX Book Store on my wall calendar. The speaker’s face and name elude me now, but he – and the bookstore – were overwhelmingly popular, and the day of the event, there wasn’t a single empty seat left by the time I got there. I claimed a free patch of floorspace at the back, against a low bookcase, and tucked my tardy knees under my lap, adjusting my body weight and craning my neck to try to catch a glimpse of the speaker through ten rows of neatly crossed pant-legs. Abandoning that effort, my eyes lingered instead on the bookcase, and I found myself drawn to a children’s book, second to bottom shelf. The book was witty and charmingly quirky, with elephants and eros, with rhymes and irony, statues and paintings, and ripe with word games à la Marcel Duchamp. It was the perfect non-Valentine’s Day gift. Here was a book that literally said “I love you”, but might not mean it.

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