Nothing compares to the rush of walking into a bookshop. It’s like stepping over a threshold into another world, a world with special sights, sounds and smells. It’s like you’re suddenly within reach of endless opportunities to be whatever you like, to imagine and watch and hear and feel simply anything. Anything at all is possible between the covers of the manuscripts reaching out to you. There is a rustle of a page here, the gleam of a glossy cover there. It’s as if one must speak in hushed tones, because nothing you say can really begin to describe what’s been written, and what was being felt and thought WHILE it was being written.
The first sign of being in a book-shop is the smell of paper. There are so many different kinds mingled together that it has a musk of its own. You take a step in and halt to breathe deep. Then you slowly take another step, your eyes everywhere, devouring every shelf, row, nook and corner. There are lines and lines of volumes, bright and plain, large, shiny picture books and tiny pocket dictionaries. There is an adventure and a life time locked into each one, preserved and fossilized forever. Trails and trails of human thought have been transcribed between these covers, snapshots of ideas taking shape in the mind that brain-scans can never capture. The very essence of life glows on each page.
You wander, a little dazed, a little unfocused. You’re being pulled in so many directions that you aren’t really there any more. A part of you registers the inky tools as you walk past them, the genius inventions that made all this possible. You might even stop to appreciate the pen- and pencil- holders brimming full of them, and, unable to resist, grab a few to add to your collection. Then, feeling that that merits a shiny new notebook as well, you might spend a few moments carefully choosing one that clicks; that fits your mood and welcomes you to fill its pages. It’s a different choice each time. They say the wand chooses the wizard, and your magic speaks a thousand ways.
Armed with your new equipment, you wander some more. Every corner is a new opportunity. Often, you spot old friends waving at you from between unknown dimensions. A wave of nostalgia washes over you, as you remember the warm summer afternoons you spent with them finishing ice-lolly after ice-lolly, dead to the rest of the world. You remember falling down rabbit holes and discovering treasure; climbing trees and sailing to distant shores. You remember laughing and crying and gasping and gripping. You remember living.
You look around at the rest of the Unknown just waiting for you to pick it up. Each one is a new temptation, a silent exchange, sometimes a downright demand. You halt in sheer realization of how very much there is to find out, what a long way you must go before there is respite. You pick one up, then two, then three, caressing the leaves, taking in what you can in the brief moments before you must set them back and leave. Because the world outside demands its toll as well. It is rare for it to grant you the gift of time. And time is the only price asked of you in the ivory towers hidden in every stroke of the pen on every page in every book tugging you into an embrace.
For long moments, you hesitate. You have, after all, been taught that Greed is a vice. You choose carefully, because, in the final analysis, your sand is running and you cannot flip this hourglass. Your choice made, you exit with quick, sure steps, your new package clutched close to your heart. The tingling joy of impending discovery does something to numb the opportunity cost you’ve left behind. You pick a new corner for the new journey, fluff the cushions, and tighten your seatbelt with your favorite mug of tea and box of chocolates. You will be away a good while, and when you’re back, you won’t be the same. That is how it is every time. Until the calling becomes too hard to resist any more, and you find yourself back at the threshold where you started…