It’s another week of fantasising about taking that job in the independent book store. Not that I’ve seen one advertised. Not that I would apply if I had. It’s just a little escapism barely based in reality.
I don’t want to own the bookshop. Then I’d have to worry about accounts and taxes and inventory and I don’t care about any of that stuff. I’d be happy just to sell books. I’d arrange the impulse buy knick-knacks at the counter and I’d spend an hour or so a week making the display table look wildly engaging, with beautifully embossed hardback covers or graphic novels or picture books. When customers came in I’d help them find the book they’re looking for and ring them up on the till, carefully putting it into a brown paper bag and sealing the bag with a tiny slither of tape because it’s such a treat to buy a book. There should be these little rituals about it.
They’d take the book home and read it. Maybe they’d look up the author online and wonder if they’ll publish another one soon. Or maybe the customer will bring the book to the counter and tell me it’s a gift for someone. And I’ll offer to wrap it for them, because there’s nothing more satisfying than a wrapped book, books are so rectangular and flat, they seem designed for that paper, the smooth straight edges carefully folded, the ribbon tied. That card lovingly written in and popped on top, happy birthday, the card would say, or congratulations or I was just thinking of you today. And you’d give your friend the book that I wrapped. Even though it’s wrapped you know it’s a book and she knows it’s a book but you play this game together because it’s just so sweet handing over a book all wrapped up like that. And your friend will open it and she’ll smile and say thank you, how lovely; maybe you’ll tell her why you bought it or maybe you won’t. Perhaps you’ll just leave it with her and hope she enjoys it. Because when you’re standing there at the shelf in the bookshop, pondering what to buy for your friend, that’s the best moment. You look at all those titles and read the blurbs and try to put yourself in that quiet internal space that is your friend’s imagination. You wonder which story on the shelf will take seed in that place, that personal corner of your friend’s mind, that you can’t quite see but you try. You try to give your friend the gift of a special story and that’s what love is like, stepping into someone else’s imagination and planting something that you hope might grow.
And that’s why I’d like a job in a bookshop.