He Was Not Alone

I spotted what I was looking for almost immediately­­––the sign once freshly painted in a forest green, the words painted in golden lettering: BOOKSTORE. Darting through the crowd, attempting to find the most immediate route through the ever-pulsating mass of people, I finally reached the entrance. Opening the door, a bell rang somewhere in the corners of the shop––a forlorn and dusty reminder of a time when people perused the shelves. Now, in a time of immediate gratification people rarely entered the bookstore, opting out for video games or Internet gossip. I searched the shelves for some time, finally finding what I was looking for. This book, with its red cover and silver lettering, was perhaps the greatest novel ever written, and here it was lying on a shelf, untouched and alone.



Blowing dust from the cover, I sat in an armchair across from the door, and began to read:


“Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”

Engrossed in Anna Karenina, I hardly heard the bell ringing. Registering the man’s entrance, I looked up momentarily, expecting to immediately return to my novel. Instead, I found my thoughts lingering on this man. Dressed entirely in corduroy, the man sported a gray beard and a pair of rather large spectacles, yet it was not his outfit that arrested me, but the lost and pitiful expression on his weathered face. He looked as though he had lost every reason for joy, and was merely slipping through life, shiftless and purposeless. Where such a man could have adopted this expression, I could only imagine.



I considered his family situation. Perhaps he had children, a wife. It could be that his wife had died, his children had left, and now he was left frequenting old bookstores, searching for companionship in paper and leather, bookshelves and dust. Or perhaps he had never loved at all. I imagined him returning to an empty house, complete with a stone walkway and porch with a sole chair positioned toward the road, as people traveled by.

Eventually, I returned to my novel, immersed in it as I was. The man came and left, momentarily stopping to speak with the owner, and to pick up a book wrapped in brown wrapping paper. The sound of the two voices roused me, and I looked up from my novel to watch the man’s joyless expression crumble, a smile creeping into his features, his eyes crinkling. I watched resolve bubble up in his chest, as he prepared to return to his empty home. He was happy to be alive. He was not alone.





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