The sun is shimmering on the sea, a thousand points of light sparkling on the bobbing water, penetrating the polarized photochromic anti-reflective coating on my sunglasses as I recline poolside, my mojito sweating a small pool of its own on the circular rippled plasticized glass table at my left elbow while my right hand holds the book open to page 213 as my eyes now wander the sea and my mind ponders the last line: "Until someone came and lightly rested a hand on my shoulder, my thoughts were of the sea."
I'd rushed out the door this morning, my wife packing my bag while I frantically worked to get away in time, the engine idling while I ran back in to retrieve the book from my bedside table. Hours later we'd checked in and walked around and eaten lunch and my wife had left me for the spa and I'd found an empty recliner by the pool facing the sea and settled in with this book. And I'd ordered the mojito now melting on the table and the umbrella now shading my body while I fell deeply into the book, emerging three hours later when I hit page 213 and that line that caused me to look up and stare at the other side of that sea.
As I sit I suddenly realize this is the only book I brought with me. It's Friday afternoon. I'm away for the weekend. I need another book. At least one. Maybe two. And caught in the spell of this book and this author, there's a specific book I need for my next read, a much longer book by this same author, a book that's sitting in my house right now, waiting to be read by me, but it's hundreds of miles and an entire weekend away. I must have it now. What's another $14?
My wife will be back in an hour. I have time. I sit up, searching for my cell phone, punch out 411. I need a large bookstore. One that's sure to stock it. I give the voice the town name. "Barnes & Noble?" No listing. "Borders?" No listing. Any book stores? No listing.
I can't believe it. I'll ask the concierge. This may be a small town -- population 25,000 -- but it's filled with shops and resorts and tourists looking for something to read while sitting by the sea. Surely someone here sells books.
She greets me with the biggest smile, a smile that never wavers even as she admits that this town, her town, hasn't a single bookstore. She sends me to the resort's gift shop, but all they have is a thin selection of last year's airport reads, nothing close to the book I need. I return to her and her smile, and she draws me a map to a place far far away, a very large enclosed mall that must, she says, have a bookstore. "Don't they all?"
Trust but verify. It's 411 all over again, the voice connects me to the mall, the mall connects me to a Borders, a sullen teenager checks the shelf and confirms that one copy of the book I must have is sitting there. I reserve it.
Logistics time. I can't get there and back before my wife returns. I must involve her in my madness. And we have dinner reservations. So I can't leave this minute. I'm antsy as she opens the door, she immediately senses something is wrong as I toss aside the hotel's glossy magazine and stand to greet her, my desperate look surely boring deeply into her. I try to enjoy dinner, I try not to rush it, but I can't, every tick of the clock making it less likely I'll make it to the store on time. My wife gives up before dessert and we rush out the door and into the car and onto the highway back the way we came my eyes peeled for the off-ramp that'll leave me just south of the Borders.
It's five minutes to closing as I run into the store. The book is there, behind the counter, a rubber band wrapped around it with a paper, concealing most of the cover from the clerk, who has trouble locating it, slowly pulling two or three other books off the reserved shelf in turn as I struggle to contain my urge to vault over the counter and grab it. Finally he finds it, pulls off the band and sets it on the counter in front of me. Another clerk asks him if he's read it and he tells her, sotto voce, that he couldn't get through it. "Neither could I" she says as they ring me up and send me on my way.
607 pages. Small type. Plenty of words, more than enough for a weekend reclining by a pool. I settle into the car next to my suffering wife and steer us back to the sea, only realizing as I pull out of the parking lot that I'd neglected to purchase a spare. I look back longingly but catch her eye in time to stay my tongue as I speed west of the sun that's rising less than six hours from now.
I am reading again. Welcome to my madness. Expect lighter posting.
Related post: "Where I'm From" (May 4, 2005).