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August 7, 2010
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It was exactly three-thirty. Three-thirty sharp, one might say, or on the dot. "Precisely...” pause to breathe while looking at the screen of your cell phone "half past three." A stranger asked you for the time, and you procured as if it was your property, sending the stranger on his merry way, mutually pleased that a pleasant social interaction had taken place which had left both parties involved just a little more enlightened. The time is important to the story. I pulled into the bookstore at exactly three-thirty, parking directly across from a handicapped spot, congratulating myself on only being required to walk two feet farther than a state appointed handicap. I turned off my engine and sat for a short time in the heat, before restarting the engine. I had a sandwich to finish, and i didn't think it socially acceptable to bring a sandwich procured from an outside establishment into a bookstore to finish there. Sitting and eating, with little distraction besides the radio, my mind began to wander. I worried over idling in a parking lot, and whether or not there was a law against it. Loitering, perhaps. Surely, if an officer approached me with the intent to chastise, I would only have to explain to him that i had every intention of entering the bookstore, I only required a short amount of time to eat, and my car was on so that I could enjoy the modern pleasures of air-conditioning. My mind then jumped ahead in the scenario, to a point far after the not-so-understanding officer had written me a hefty ticket which I was unable to pay. I sat at my dining room table, poring over countless books of law with titles such as "Loitering: Florida Statutes." I find a well hidden footnote expressing that the accused loiterer must have loitered for at least thirty minutes before legal action could be taken against him. As proof, i could use my receipt from Publix supermarkets, stating that I had purchased a sandwich from them at three-eighteen, making it impossible for me to have been loitering in the Books-A-Million for the required half-hour. Content with the idea i was safe from any legal persecution; i turned off my car and walked inside. I had an appointment with someone at five o' clock, leaving me only an hour or so to read. Browsing the shelves, i lit upon Chuck Palahniuk's recent novel, Pygmy. It was, to be blunt, offensively awful compared to his previous works. Downhearted and slightly sickened, i sat down to Haunted. Thirty pages in I nearly had to go to the restroom and empty my stomach simply from the stark brilliance of the stories. I was once again sickened, but I was sickened in a way that made me feel intensely joyous. Riveted, i looked up only for a moment to investigate a soft, persistent noise that had caught my attention. A girl, about my age, stood in front of me, wearing a smock bearing the store's insignia and sweeping the space underneath the bookshelves. Instantly the story was forgotten, and all my creative and imaginative faculties were directed on placing this girl into an understandable niche. The delicate creature fascinated me, and not for reasons I myself would have imagined. She was pretty, but she was pretty in a way that no one would ever tell her she was pretty. No heads would turn as she walked past, nor would conversations be held devoted to her, in rooms she was sure to never go. No one would picture her to soothe mental turmoil. Her age was impossible to pinpoint, as was her race and lineage. She was of a dark, smooth complexion and tall thin stature. She moved with grace, but not overbearing grace. As i stared i got the feeling that if she stood still for long enough, eventually i would no longer be able to see her. I would look around me, wondering just what was it that i was thinking about, and then go back to my book. She looked back at me and our eyes met for a moment. I felt a strange thrill and let a wry smile slip onto my face. I couldn't make out her expression as we stared at each other, studying and learning each other’s faces in the fraction of a second in which our eyes locked. Her eyes were very sad, they seemed to sag into her face, pessimistic and world weary in a forlorn kind of way. She continued to sweep, slowly and steadily, with the grace of a ballroom dancer. I watched her sweep, staring at her until she began to feel uncomfortable, squirming under the attention of a fellow human. I wasn't really staring at her though; she faded out of conciseness and was now a pleasant peripheral in the field of my true vision. My heart went out to the thin girl with the sad eyes. I felt an intense desire to help her in some way, to provide her with enough money to quit working, to save her from whatever horrible experience it was that soured her to the pleasures of the world. Admittedly, it was a selfish desire, as i wanted to be sure that she knew it was me helping her. I wanted to call her pretty, to tell her she was special, that I loved her. I wanted to lie to her, for i did not love her, she was not in any visible way special, and no one called her pretty. I wanted someone to love her, though. I continued to ponder in this way for some time, watching as she slowly moved along the shelves and swept away the bottoms of the bookshelves. Who did she see when she looked in the mirror; did she hear when she spoke? Did she speak? Was she deaf, mute, handicapped in some way? Was she an orphan, with a cruel foster family and an awkward social life? Consider the other side of the analysis; perhaps she led a perfect life. The still frame in which our eyes met was in no way a concrete indicator of who this person was, and I was well aware of that. For some reason, I chose to suspend my own disbelief, and allow her to be a creature of pity, and angel of desire, a young girl victimized by a world where things are utterly wrong, hidden behind a facade of naturalistic defiance. This girl was defined by human nature, a by-product of the natural condition that pervades the world’s population. She embodied hopelessness, hate, bitterness. Pandora. The Dialogue:
"Why do you weep?"
"I weep for i am not pretty."
"But you are pretty."
"And this is why i weep."
"Because you are bitter?"
"I am not bitter, bitterness evades me."
"How is this possible?"
"It is possible because i am not pretty"
"Why are you not pretty"
"Because I weep."
I will never know who she was. Perhaps she did not exist. People exist to only themselves on a plane adjacent to life, parallel to all other existences. Existence requires validation, and validation can come only from one who exists. Yet existence cannot be proven by another if there isn't any other in which existence has been already validated. The logic is circular, and it is a deep shade of amber. It stares out, contrasted against a white backdrop, containing in its center the black futility of answering for the world under one's own power. It sits, and stares, this logic; it stares until we become uncomfortable and lay still, hoping to disappear. Then it smiles, and pushes a broom under bookshelves day after day, never getting any closer or farther from clean.The time was four-fortyseven. I put the book back and left. She swept.





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