Early Monday evening I entered Barnes and Noble. The chill from outside loosened its grasp and drifted away from me like smoke. There were more people than I would have liked, but I'm an introvert, and, as such, would prefer as few people as possible. Doing my best to remain invisible, I wove around the bookstore patrons. Despite any discomfort I might feel around them, they were there for the same reasons I was, reasons that were made of paper and ink.
I stopped by the journals first, a habit I had picked up from my mother. Many of the blank books were familiar faces: a leather lion, a yellow ribbon bookmark peering from between pages, and a variety of green leaves. A few that I recognized were the same as some of my mother's. Several new faces murmured their mute hellos as well. I picked up one that I'd inspected before. Its black cover was rough as I traced the clockwork design on the front. Gently opening it, I flipped through the pages, blank save for the black lines, and inhaled the sent of unused paper, the sent of potential.
I moved on to the graphic novels and mangas, taking a few detours to avoid people perusing the fiction and poetry shelves. Peeking into the desired aisle, I smiled slightly and moved on to the next one. The graphic novels and manga had a slightly different atmosphere. In other sections, readers stood back from the shelves or sat in chairs, but here, those who felt quite at home sat on the floor in the middle of the aisle. On days when other customers were few and far between, I would do the same until my legs fell asleep beneath me. Monday, however, I moved on to the other books for the time being. I flipped almost every book over to read the back, occasionally opening them to read the inside of the dust jacket. Cover art and titles are far from reliable in defining a book's worth. Still, only a shelf away from the graphic novels, I could hear the college age boys that occupied the floor. There were a few mentions of characters they all seemed to be familiar with, and then they began to head out.
"What's that one?"
One of them picked up a book and flipped a few pages. "It's about a hipster."
"I don't want to read about hipsters."
I waited a moment and put down the steampunk book I had been holding, moving to investigate Barnes and Noble's stock of graphic novels and manga. My attention shifted from book to book, art style to art style, before I wandered back to the fantasy, where a book of dragon history caught my eye. I smiled. I have a love for dragons. Taking it into my hands, I opened it to the middle and found a copy of Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. Eventually, I drifted back to the front to do some people watching. Many in line were adults, more than likely parents. They seemed worn, but perhaps it was simply the effect of the holidays. A pair of girls near the line stole my attention for a moment. They both were shorter than me, likely in high school or early college. The taller of the two had short red hair and wore a black pea coat. She embraced her friend.
"I didn't expect to see you here!"
"I read!" The shorter one replied indignantly. Her hair was dark and fell a little past her shoulders. She wore a dark shirt with a wide, but not low, neck line.
I smiled a little. They reminded me of myself with my friends. It was the clothing styles as well as the fact that I wouldn't expect to find my friends in Barnes and Noble, even though I know full well that they read.
I came home with one book. It was enough. Two days before, I had downloaded ten new books to my kindle, many of which were for free. I have reading material. I go back to work tomorrow. The books not yet read will be a comfort to have ready as well as a torment to ignore, as it is with all books.