I went down to the bookstore to buy some books. I paid my parking fee and had just enough money left for 2.
On my way in I wondered why the hell we were still paying parking fees. Wasn’t parking some sort of civil right? It was just like paying to use the sidewalk on your way for a stroll down to the park.
Anyhow, I made it in and headed to the CLASSICS shelf. I located my books, grabbed them and made my way into the cashier’s line. The people in front of me held phones, laptops, headsets, concert tickets, their kids’ hands, toys for their kids and complained about high prices. They went on about the fleeting economy in the country and how the money they made was quickly spent on anything and everything. Most of these things were necessities: food, water, clothes, tuition. Other things were utter bullshit like bills and fees. We were twenty-first-century people – the ancients would have thought of us as the missionaries of the future in their visions – yet we were still unable to strike a balance when it came to living well and fulfilling our needs and retaining our civil rights.
The line was moving slowly, and each customer seemed to carry more items than his predecessor. I started thinking about my own spending: food, water, rent, electricity, gas, clothes. Then I thought about my purchases: books. I had a full bookshelf waiting for me back home, and here I was re-thinking the additions I was holding in my hand. Did I really need those books? I could’ve spent this money on a nice steak or a fancy shirt. But I already had food in my fridge and a couple of shirts in my closet.
I could spend it on whores or alcohol or parties. But I wasn’t really the festive type. Nor did I particularly like whores. Without really understanding it, books were my only logical choice. Somehow I was compelled to go for them, and they made up for my times of hunger or heartbreak or lack of festivity. They were reliable that way. Inside those pages was an infinite well I’d drink from every time I opened a book, and it made up for my other shortcomings in life: working a mediocre job, being too ugly or not being able to write as well as I wanted to.
They were consolation, they were solace, and they were my personal little victory.
Finally the line was getting smaller and smaller, like a little thread shrinking from its tips or slowly being burned by a candle flame. It was now my turn. The man in front of me had just bought two tickets to a summer concert. Here I was about to buy my ticket to another world – or two.
I paid and got out. I hopped in my car, drove home, opened a can of beer and started reading. I thought about the music, the words, the lyrics in the world. I was reading a book and dreaming of writing the next great one. The kid next door was strumming his guitar strings, probably wishing he was playing a concert in Madison Square Garden. So why did we do it? For the lost hope and rejection of the harsh reality that contained us? For the unachievable dreams we were denied by our cruel truth and pitiful lives? No, we did it for the soul. We did it for the urge to create or build or become something greater. The book was a reliable guide, as was the guitar or any other musical instrument.
The lyrics were getting louder in my mind now, and suddenly they were accompanied by a nice little symphony. The dog outside was barking at his loudest like he was hearing the music too.
The day was making way to the night, the sky was filled with soft clouds moving at slow speeds overhead. Somewhere out there maybe, a nice family was enjoying a tasty steak or wearing fancy shirts. Somewhere two guys were locked between the legs of whores and prostitutes who didn’t even know their names and never planned to. Somewhere teenagers were partying in a small abandoned warehouse, with a DJ hosting the event and loud music and cheap alcohol served at the venue. And here, sitting next to a small light, I was reading a book and finishing my can of beer. And the kid next door with dreams of becoming a famous musician was still playing his guitar.