In the used bookstore at lunch escaping my work computer loaded with musts and shoulds, I am conscious how I stick out among the jean clad students cramming and the time-served retirees relaxing. Students slouch over tables their coffee mugs steaming industriously. Two older-than-me women hold down the wing chairs in the window, displaying leisure. One holds a pink highlighter uncapped and clamped between her index finger and thumb, cocked and ready to mark the noteworthy on the page in front of her. Her cup is not steaming. She sips anyway.
In the poetry section I realize how difficult it is to bend sideways and genuflect in a tight red skirt as I try to read the titles of skinny books of poetry, poor refugees squeezed between their fat anthologized neighbours; how my high-heeled boots click-clack across hardwood boards once blond now worn in spots to grey; how my chair clunks as I pull it out all eyes burrowing deeper between the covers; how I dip Darjeeling tea wrapped in a small sack tied with a string, a hobo satchel held by an exiled office worker looking for a place in a different cliche; how a whiff of perfume rises when I lift off my coat but does not mask the scent of dust stuck between pages and floating champagne-like and atmospheric when released.
I stay, steeping, keeping still while the dust settles around me, reading two treasures found: Billy Collins Nine Horses and Ursula K. Le Guin’s Incredible Good Fortune. Still, lucky me here among words and readers for a short time, away from musts and shoulds.