The Bookstore

I stood in the atrium of a bookstore. I was a little muddled and I reached to my face and it was wet, no, more than wet, it was damp and soaked at the same time. I shook my head and heard the voice.

“Sir are you ok?” the tall man in the crisp black suit said to me, “I haven’t seen lightning hit that close in a while. Wow, would you look at the storm.”

I turned, outside the door a few feet behind me a storm raged that could only be considered a monsoon. The rain pelted off the door and clinks of small ice pellets jingled like an insane tambourine staccato that held no real pattern. I paused trying to remember something that was almost there, but I could not.

“How did I get here?” I asked the man. He was tall true, well over 6 foot and much taller than my 5’11. He was not big nor small and there was a radiance about him, something that imposed control and noted power. Even though I did not feel intimidated I could not remember why I was here, nor how I got here.

“You walked in the door of course.”  There was a clap of thunder that ripped the heavens in pieces and I looked outside as a tree fell across the road. “I guess we will be stuck here for a while,” he said. “I will make a few calls and see if we can get that tree gone. So how can I help you?”

“I am not sure,” I said and looked around the small store. To my left a stage was placed with eerie precision. Couches and tables were scattered around the stage and a bar behind them to the left of the store. To the right there were books, books everywhere of seemingly every type.

“Well, we have a little bit of everything, from the positive to the negative, from the enlightened to the macabre, from history to fiction we have it all. If you can’t find what you need, we will find a way to get it for you, all you have to do is ask,” the man said. “By the way, my name is Luke. They call me lucky Luke, but my luck hasn’t been all that great, it is just so-so.”

“Umm, hi Luke, my name is Rob, Rob Pelican. You know, maybe I should go,” I said wiping my face dry, “I really don’t know why I am here.”

“Must be either to get a book or meet someone,” Luke laughed, “but you won’t be going anywhere until the storm slows down. Why don’t you look around and maybe you will remember something?”

I looked back at the door and watched the storm rage. I wiped my face and noted my pants and shirt were mostly dry. I wondered how I had avoided being soaked but did not worry about it now. I started to walk as Luke walked to the back.

“I am going to go downstairs to the office, I will be a few minutes. Look around, I will be right back. There is another customer in here somewhere. Just wait for me if you remember what you were looking for, I won’t be long.”

I smiled and yelled back, “OK, I will do that.” Then I began to walk in the deep stacks of books. Luke was right. If you had an imagination it would be fueled by everything in this store. I wandered through the children’s books for a moment, then the teen, books were stacked nearly 20 feet high with sliding mahogany ladders allowing you to climb up. I thought about lawsuits but saw a little gold chain with a sign on the ladder that said, “If you enter the steps, abandon all hope of lawsuit, it is your choice”.  I laughed at the language and knew it was a literary mention, but I did not know or remember for what.

My head began to feel a little better as I reached the edges of the teen books and entered the romance section. I still did not remember how I got their or why, but I was actually starting to enjoy looking at the books. I saw a book called Q and picked it up for a moment, it was for a young person and I set it down and went on. Further a book called “The Rejects of Room 5” sparked my attention as I had always felt like a reject. Still, it was not what I was there for, so I continued on. I moved into history and historical fiction. A book called “Road Home” was enticing but it was not why I was there.

I turned a small corner and pushed a ladder a few feet and saw a woman looking at books to my right. From where I stood she was small and well dressed. Her crisp pencil skirt was offset by a lined blouse and a stunning vest. Her long red hair seemed to flow even though there was no wind in the building. She stood on maybe 5’7 but 4 inches of that were the stylish black heels and though she wore no stockings her legs were well tones and tanned. That hair, it was haunting until she turned.

“Rob?” she said to me as she looked into my eyes with a mixture of anger and despair. “What are you doing here?”

“I don’t know,” I said, “I am trying to remember but I walked in through the storm. What are you doing here? I thought you moved to Paris or New York or something?” Her name was Amy, and we had some history, a very deep history.

“I am visiting friends if it matters at all to you,” she said with more than a little anger attached to it, “I just wanted to get a gift for their daughter.”

I looked at her, she was stunning as always. “You look amazing.”

She shook her head, “That really doesn’t mean much to me anymore. Once maybe, but I am not even sure why you are talking to me right now.”

I paused and considered, “Why wouldn’t I?”

“You sure you want to ask that?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I replied, “Why wouldn’t I?”

Amy seemed to consider her path for a moment. She was a powerful person in my previous position, but she had left that. She was respected by a significant number of people and I had been a part of her team. “Don’t go believing your own press releases,” Amy said to me. “I know how you pretend to be so Petey pure heart with people, but I grew up. After your little shot across my bow a lot of people came to me and started filling in the blanks, I had been too blind to see.”

“Amy,” I said to her, “I am not sure what to say. I know I don’t know what you are speaking of.”

“Oh please,” Amy laughed with fiery indignation in her eyes, “I liked how after you set me aside you told everyone I was the bad guy, I like how when people who knew us as great friends asked you about me and if we were going to get together that you said, what was it ‘don’t you think I could do better’?”

I remembered, and remember saying it to a few people, I cringed being caught but felt bad about it. “I am sorry Amy, I really didn’t know what to say.”

“Why not say what I said?” Amy continued, seething with rage, “I told everyone you were exceptional and special and would always be a part of my heart.” Amy stopped for a second and the rage changed, she was upset but would not cry, the edge of a tear being held back by her indomitable will. “I told people I respected you and your work, I told people I moved on to do better. Let me see, I was told you said I overstepped, I went to far, everything was one sided, that I was a stalker. I was even told you thought I was leaving you candy on your desk, let me ask you Rob, why would I care? You ripped my heart out and slept with another woman and blamed me for your problems.”

Some clarity was coming but this was too fast. How had I forgotten all of this until this moment? I remembered saying a lot of things, but I was trying to save my marriage. I looked into her battered but dry eyes, “I was trying to save my marriage.” I said. “You do remember I was married?”

“I was too,” Amy said, “It was you who chased me, you who made me feel special when I was ignored at home. You who spent the time talking to me and more. It was you who set me on my path.”

I remembered, and I had told Amy that over and over. Yes, it was wrong, but we were both in such wrong relationships it felt so right. I was at once ashamed and angry for what I had done. “Amy,” I said, “I’m sorry.”

“Sorry for what?” Amy continued, “Destroying my life or trying to destroy my reputation. I did my homework Rob, after I left several men came forward and said they would have warned me but were afraid of me. It seems everyone feared me but you.”

I was torn suddenly, the passion, the excitement, the love. It was all there, yes, I loved her and now here I was divorced and alone. Now I lived in a small apartment trying to get by alone. My wife had divorced me when she found out. I felt my anger flair.

“You called my wife and told her about us, you destroyed my life and my marriage,” I said with renewed anger.

Amy laughed hard and the tears were gone, “I know this will count against me when I stand before the pearly gates, but you are a fool of a fool. I said nothing. A friend called me and asked about you, but I never spoke to your wife.”

“She said you told her,” I said with more force.

“She did huh?” Amy was almost mocking me, “and poor little Rob did not trust me and just coerced himself into belief. What a joke. I thought you were more intelligent that that. It is a 3rd grade move to trick someone, but she had your number and you fell for it hook line and sinker. I bet you even told her about the other gal, what was here name? Wendy? Clair? Who cares? Rob, I will hurt for a long time because of you, but I am done.” Amy put down a book and walked past me towards the door. I smelled her and felt her breeze as she passed. I walked behind her, “Amy, don’t go.”

She stopped and looked at me, “Why?”

“I miss you,” I said to her. “I miss us.”

“Well,” Amy said, “You tell all your friends the truth, and figure it out for yourself and maybe we will see if I can talk to you again, then again, maybe not. I will feel my love for you every day of my life, but I likely will not share it with you again.”

“Amy,” I said again, “there is a storm.”

“Story of my life babe, story of my life.”

I walked behind her until we reached the door. The storm raged outside pelting the door like a thousand rainy bullets. A truck was being battered as it was moving the tree in the road.

“Goodbye Rob, thanks for ruining another day,” Amy said as the tears began to flow. Tears I never saw, tears I ignored. I felt her now like I should have before. Amy turned rapidly and slammed out the door.

I went to follow and felt a hand on my arm. “Mr Pelican, are you OK?”

“No,” I said, “I am not OK.” I tried to wrench my arm away but it was held with a grip far more powerful than I could have guessed. I looked at Luke. He looked different now, more foreboding. I had not noticed his eyes, they were nearly black if not a deep ebony black, and I sat looking into those eyes for a moment. “I messed up, I remember Amy telling me once that all I had to do was ask and we would be together, and I waited. I waited for family, for my girls to grow up, for every excuse in the world, and she waited for me. I think I screwed up.”

Luke laughed.

“Why are you laughing?” I said with a little anger.

“You screwed up all right.” Luke giggled.

“I need to go after her,” I said and as I turned there was no door, just a brick wall where windows and a door had been. I ran to the wall and pushed it and my hands burned hot. The wall was impenetrable to me.

“What is going on here?” I said. “What is this place?”

“Just a little store,” Luke told me, “Well, it is your store after all. You built that wall as well, it is the wall that keeps others out. You are stuck in one of your well managed boxes. Every time we talk you ask this and every time I tell you.” Luke walked around on the finely finished wood floor, his black shoes clicked on the floor as he paced. “I actually enjoy it some, telling you. Don’t you remember? Your divorce? The pain? Remember saying ‘I want to die every day’ and finally finding your way to do it? Remember the EMTs, and the blood everywhere, your wrists cut?” Images flashed through my mind and emotions ran with them. I remembered the despair I felt. I felt as though I had lost everything. The world seemed to crush me and I felt as though I had no way out, no way but one. I had spiraled to deeper and deeper depression. I made a decision to end it all, and did so. The blade had cut deep and I remembered feeling lightheaded, then darkness, then I opened my eyes here looking at the storm.

“What is going on?” I demanded.

Luke laughed again, “You haven’t figured it out? I am disappointed, I know you are a smart man, or were a smart man. I am playing a game with you. You need to understand how your actions made your destiny. Everything you did lead to this moment with you and me.”

“What about Amy,” I asked.

“Amy is still alive, and after you she built her own little hell, she suffers as much as you do every day. She grieves for herself each night as sunset falls. She is her own nightmare and she may well avoid seeing me.” Luke smiled. “You, on the other hand get to enjoy my company, well, forever. You get to feel this indescribable feeling over and over.”

“No, that’s not possible.” I said, “I am a good person, I help people. I know I cheated and have not followed a good path but.”

“Ha,” Luke laughed, “I see everything remember? You stab everyone in the back. You talked bad about all your friends to your other friends. Those who stood up for you eventually regretted it. Even your best friend, who came out of the relationship with Amy, figured it out after you killed yourself. Eventually they all talk to each other, eventually they know. Sure, Amy was no saint, after all she broke her vows to be with you and someday, she might be here, but you, wow Rob, you are an expert at destroying people. A few thousand years from now I may give you a job torturing people just to watch and be amused. Your sin was not cheating, your sin was being you. You denied love, you denied friendship, you destroyed yourself.”

“What do you mean,” I asked knowing the answer.

“I mean it is time to remember,” Luke said and suddenly I did. I had talked to Amy hundreds, no thousands of times. I remembered them all, sometimes it went as today, sometimes I was nicer and it was tender, but it always ending with her leaving, always I focused on the faults and not the good we had. Always she got angry and I could not connect with that special part of who we had been. Always she walked out the door, the door I could not walk out of, and always Luke gave me this speech.

I began to cry, no I began to sob. I saw who I was and I did not like it. “Why?” I asked, even pleaded. “Why?”

“You already know,” Luke said, “You cannot seem to learn. You think that your way is the only way. You are lost and cannot see beyond that small pitiful excuse of a person you were to what others are. Even as Amy is angered she still loves you while you, you lost that ability if you ever had it. Now here is the fun part, now it’s time to forget.”

Luke’s voice faded and I felt a strange dizziness cross over me. I grasped and tried to hang on but the memory of it all seemed to escape like a butterfly in the wind until it was there no more. I felt muddled for a second and all the things I was thinking were lost. There was darkness for just a moment, finally a clap of thunder startled me.

I stood in the atrium of a bookstore. I was a little muddled and I reached to my face and it was wet, no, more than wet, it was damp. I shook my head and heard the voice.

“Sir are you ok?” the tall man in the crisp black suit said to me, “I haven’t seen lightning hit that close in a while. Wow, would you look at the storm.”

I turned, outside the door a few feet behind me a storm raged that could only be considered a monsoon. The rain pelted off the door and clinks of small ice pellets jingled like an insane tambourine staccato that held no real pattern. I paused trying to remember something that was almost there, but I could not.