A wide-windowed bookstore lets the light in.
It lets the light shine on the paperbacks and hardcovers, on the genre books and the gimmicky think pieces. It lets the light shine on the copies of post-apocalyptic social satires and on the coming-of-age novelas and on the histories and the historical fictions and on the science-for-laymen and on the celebrity politico bio exposés.
A wide-windowed bookstore suns the books, the natural light making the dust jacket designs and author photos crisp and sharp and lovely.
It must have driven the woman nuts.
The woman was strolling through the store with two friends. The three looked to be in their mid-20s. They were all white with long, brown hair and were, momentarily, failing the Bechdel test.
The woman led the group to Fiction. There, she hefted a large post-apocalyptic social satire, opened it to the back dust jacket and handed it to the shorter of her two friends.
“And this,” she said, pausing for just a sliver to let the moment land. “Is his ex-girlfriend.”
There was silence for a moment.
“Didn’t they have another picture?” the friend to her left chimed. “I wouldn’t have used that picture.”
It was a kindness, of course. I flipped through the copy later. The author was stunning. Stunning, a novelist and the ghost ex, the one that haunts.
The picture looked lovely in the crisp, clear light.
The conversation continued, the three talking about the ghost on the dust jacket. It went through what the woman knew about the relationship, about how it ended and why.
“I think she really loved him,” the woman said, looking at the photo one last time before putting the book on the shelf.
There was no malice in her voice, just wonderment that her life and this stranger’s had connected in such an odd, intimate way.
The three started to walk away from Fiction.
“I’m not a best-selling writer,” the woman said.
“Yeah, but you’re a best-selling photographer,” one of the friends replied.
The woman paused, stopping her stride by the greeting card section.
For just a moment, a split second of an instant of a mote of time, she stood between her two friends in the middle of a well-lit bookstore.
She wrapped her arms around her friends’ shoulders and let out a laugh. It was a laugh of relief, a laugh of a burden lifted, a laugh of a woman who realized she had nothing to fear when flanked by friends she had.
It was also a laugh at a greeting card making fun of how much coffee some people need to be functional.
The three women looked at cards, then continued their happy amble through the wide-windowed bookstore, laughing and joking in the sunlight, talking about anything but men.