heart to heart
Dora asked, quite seriously, "Do you have every book in the world here?" I assured her I did not, recalling my own encounter with a bookcloset at 8, and a teacher who snarled that I had read all the books in the world during my illicit moments of reading between lessons. I'm sure the horror of my belief that all the books in the world were in that closet--and what was the rest of my life going to be like?--shaped my path towards libraries and bookstores. I'm not sure what Dora's moments surrounded by the books in my store will end up doing for her.
At any rate, she wanted to read some poetry to the dogs. They were eager to listen. She checked through my poetry section and settled on Shel Silverstein as appropriate for canines. In between poems she chattered and confided.
And then she asked if I'd play Heart to Heart with her. It's not a game I knew, but she ran to her mom's car and produced a pack of cards with questions so we could take turns. "What is your favorite childhood memory?" She thought maybe we both should answer that. Hers was her 5th birthday, when there were bouncy-castles--five of them--and a cake that was made of icecream and her family was together. Mine was my 6th birthday, when the ship I'd traveled in docked in Japan and I saw my father for the first time in two years.
"You might have trouble with this one" she said "because, you know, you are old and you would need to remember back a long way probably". "Okay, what's the question?" "When was your first kiss?"
"Oh, I remember very well, Dora" I said, trying not to flinch at my increasingly dottery status. "It was a stage kiss, I was playing someone's wife. I was 16 or so, and we did end up girlfriend and boyfriend for a while". "Mine was when I was born, I think. I think my father kissed me on my head. He loved me."
"I'm sure he did". She has a very pretty smile that comes and goes like sunlight through clouds.
We found out each others favorite fairy tales: hers is Sleeping Beauty, mine was the 12 swans--a story she didn't know yet. She read some more poems to the dogs. She brought me her diary, in which the names of the boys she thinks are nice are written with hearts and flowers: Austin, and Gabriel, and Laurie. We tried hulahooping for a while.
My other customers were, as usual, tolerant--they have to be, because you never know if you are going to find people with hulahoops near the metaphysics books or a heavy political discussion or what when you enter this space.
And she dashed off again, her stepfather checking that all was well, her mother saying "she talks about this bookstore all the time at home". This time her book for home was on cats ("my favorite, favoritist animals of all, they are sooo cute"). I added a little blank book with roses on the cover--I usually have stacks around for my own writings, far too many to fill in the time I have. "I'll come back and show you all the stories I write!" she said.
Dora is lovely respite from some of my other visitors and their troubles, and from the crash of reality outside the bookstore walls. Today my partner waits in a congressman's office, where he has vowed to stay till he is arrested. Today a good friend who is keeping watch over his wife's long dying came to get some light reading, some escape.
The wife, Pat, is a poet whose life has been long and full and ebbs now, moment by moment, drop of morphine by drop of morphine.
The last note she sent, while she was still able to write, said "I watch the beautiful colors as they light the edges of the trees, as the sun goes down, as the night comes on."