Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How cool would it be to get into a fistfight in a used bookstore with a guy that looked like Spencer from the Hills?

I opened the door to the punch line: “It was an adverb not an adjective.” The balding, never-left college man behind the counter let out a belly laugh and his co-worker, a diminutive woman with cat-eye glasses and a threadbare cotton t-shirt, chuckled, proud that her joke went over so well. Like all successful jokes she repeated the punch line: “It wasn’t an adjective.” 3 deep in line, the customers were privy to the joke, either giving a short courtesy laugh or nod that said “I got it.” I looked at all 5 and regretted leaving Border’s. I was out of my element and on the run.

It was a used bookstore in a college town. What did I want? The aisles were narrow and errant paperbacks were stacked vertically along the base of the shelves like molding. There were a handful of people in the store and we were all jockeying for position in the fiction section.

I wanted the book Middlesex by an author I couldn’t remember, but there was no way in hell I was going to ask the 2 behind the counter who wrote it. Even though the book was approved by the used bookstore intelligentsia and the subject matter was titillating and could be used as liberal leverage at parties or poetry readings, I was afraid that just asking a question would spawn conversation about books and I didn’t want that. I decided to go it alone, starting in the “A” aisle. It had a familiar cover and was popular book, so it wouldn’t be that hard to find.

It didn’t’ start well. Next to me was a guy in a Strand t-shirt, the CBGB’s of used bookstores. I glared at him and thought: “We get it, dude. You like books.” He bugged me already.

Since there was a little room to move past the book browsers, I bunny hopped sections, going around the back of the bookshelves. Ending up in the “S” section, I had yet to find the book and had already written it off. My eyes darted from book to book, mindlessly wandering the mosaic of fonts and colors that were in front of me, wasting time until my exit.

Two students passed behind me, parking themselves in the “P” section. I caught the tail end of their conversation: “Fuck’em if he was offended. He didn’t move,” he proudly boasted. He was young, good looking, taught and tanned. He had that rich-boy look that was intimidating and that said “Don’t fuck with me, I have something to prove.” I gave him a lot of space.

Pulling a book of the shelf, his friend appeared to be the opposite of him: mousy and non-descript with a best-friend-never-a-girlfriend vibe. It was easy to see that she pinned over him and was too dumb to notice or didn’t care.

“Have you ever heard of her?” thrusting the binding of the book toward his face.

“No, contrary to popular belief,” he said, “I’m not that well read. Who is she?”

What a dick, I thought.

She continued, “Well, she was a woman that was married to an abusive man. She killed herself. I like poetry like that.”

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