Outside The Book Closet

5 min read
Outside the book closet

The quaint little bookstore stood at the farthest corner of the road. The sunlight quite didn’t reach it and the smell of damp moss permeated the air. The little abbreviations on the door once golden were now rusty. The door seemed old and creaky and the dust settles on it almost as thickly as snow. Sometimes a curious passer-by by would wipe the dust and peer only to meet the startling green eyes of an old man. The owner of the bookstore was short, he was pudgy and round and had only a few grey hairs on his head. The rest had fallen out with age. His skin was wrinkled mostly due to lack of care. When he smiled; which was only now and then, the great folds of his skin sagged in a manner that made his look akin to a reptile. A couple of his teeth were missing and he was starting to lose out on others. But his green eyes sparkled with a youthful charm that time hadn’t managed to fade. Emerald eyes that were filled with a delightful warmth that his otherwise grumpy exterior hid.

There was no need for him to sit in the tumble down bookstore as though waiting for a customer; he knew there weren’t going to be any. His son had taken care of his bills. The termites had infested his once prized books and the bookstands were creaky and fragile. The books were laden in dust and probably bred a variety of microorganisms. But nevertheless, he sat there almost as though he were waiting for something, though he never quite knew what. Deep down in the saggy folds of his tirelessly beating heart; he knew what he was waiting for but he was too afraid to voice it. He was terrified of uncovering what he already knew but refused to admit. So as a form of penance, he opened the rusty shutter of his bookstore and sat on the tool, waiting. Dim sunlight always entered his bookstore, making the isolated atmosphere a little brighter. He did not care about installing lights; he would only remain in the bookstore as long as the sun was and then retire for the night.

When a passer-by would peek into the bookstore assuming the store to be abandoned, the old man would stare them back with such intensity that most of them fled without turning back. He was protective of his dead and decaying books; the power that they once had over his life. In a way he bore likeness to a gargoyle guarding the ancient secret world of magic. His gremlin green eyes and his old back made some children wonder if he were truly a guardian of the mystical worlds that they were told didn’t exist. But he was just as human as you and I. The blood flowing in his old body would attest to it that he was neither below not above you. He was not a monster, not a saviour; he was painfully every bit a human. He was made of the same ingredients as us: a pinch of mischief, a helping of good will, half a table spoon of pain, a quarter of envy and a whole lot of love.

But with age his ingredients had slowly stopped stirring under the fire of life. They had thickened and solidified until it was only love that remained flowing. Mischief had formed tiny crystals that barely moved and only once and then glinted in his eyes, goodwill had evaporated leaving behind only it’s aroma, jealousy vanished without a trace. And pain, it sat in the middle of his concoction protruding out and never quite blending with love.

It was pain that whispered to him and asked him to sit in his shop. To never quite close it and simply sit, fading alongside the books that faithfully comforted him and transported him to the world beyond his own. When his reality had been encrusted with the stiff diamonds of pain, he had sheltered himself with paper and fled to a dimension where he could silently live. But now his desire to escape had ceased along with age and he simply rested his creaky thighs on an old wooden tool, waiting. For what he knew well, but never quite acknowledged it.

Until the winter passed and the summer returned and the folks returned back to the town. On the fateful summer evening, the old man sat in his shop. No clients, none of his books had been sold. The dryness of the summer air had taken away the damp smell of the moss. The sunlight reflected the dust as it shone through the window that was coated with the same. But the old man sat on his tool, ever so faithfully. The door creaked open for the first time in several months, and he had a visitor. Curious, his eyes snapped up until he saw who his kind visitor was.

It was a boy, small and lithe. “What on earth is this place?” He demanded pompously, his eyes scanning around the place. His nose wrinkled in distaste as he looked at the poor condition of the store and the old man could feel embarrassment tinting his cheeks a faint red. “Have you ever thought of cleaning?” The boy demands as he walked around, inspecting the nooks and crannies of the dilapidated store. The old man, now a little protective of his store spoke in his raspy voice, “It does not do for me to clean the store. I do not have the energy anymore, boy.”

The boy looks up from the shelf, his dark hair falling over his freckled face. Deep brown eyes, look into his emerald ones and he says, “Well, why do you stay here then? You could fall sick, you know. I’m just saying. My grandma died a couple of months before, you old people fall sick quite quick.” But the old man has lost his interest in the conversation and all he cares about now are the memories flooding his chest as he looks properly at the freckled child. He looks at him again and wonders if all this wait had been worth it? These years of hiding, were the worth it? He doesn’t know and he doesn’t know if his answers are anywhere within his reach.

The door to his store creaks open again and in comes a man almost as aged as he. He looks fondly at the child and says, “Not bothering anyone much, are you?” The boy barely looks up, his freckled nose now buried into a dusty book, a treasure he managed to discover. The old man, his hair balding and receding looks around the store with his deep, dark eyes. Until it catches the absurdly green ones of the owner sitting on the tool, looking at him in absolute astonishment. All these years, this wait. Of wondering if he was dead. Of not knowing anything; simply waiting in earnest. Waiting in pain, waiting in secret. Was it going to be worth it? Had he not rehearsed this scene a thousand and one times in his head? Why is it that when it was being played out, that his tongue dried up and he felt his heart beating with a monstrous intensity of a terrified fifteen year old heart? Most importantly, had the wait stopped?

Several months later, the town was celebrating delightfully. It wasn’t a very big and modern town, but they had done their best to adhere to the new principles of the generation. Most people are in an infectiously happy mood and several of them stay dabbing their eyes at the beautiful scene. The pastor stands between the couple as he reads the matrimony vows; this is the first time he’s done something like this. The vows continue and there’s not a dry eye left in the audience now. “I now pronounce you to be a married couple.” The final words fall from his mouth.

Emerald eyes of the old groom look into the deep brown eyes of his groom. Old and frail, they both stand at the altar; finally reading out words they hadn’t dared to a century before. Goblin green eyes smiles with contentment at the new magic resonating in his old life. The potion has begun stirring and love flows unambiguously.

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