Blue Sunday Bookstore BluesJake Kilroy spends most of is time living and working in Orange, CA. He writes poetry. You can find a lot of his poetry, along with some great stories, over at The Cobblestone Address.
by Jake Kilroy
I was moving through the used bookstore as if I were fondling the art of a museum.
The light at the end of the aisle jangled a terrible hum. But, as I swayed towards the end of the aisle, there came the rickety music box voice of a teenage boy. It was a wobbly sound, the forlorn melody of a boy trying to impress a girl. It’s a song that nobody likes to hear, but it’ll be dazzling nobody until the end of mankind.
There, sitting next to a girl, was a boy with an optimistic look that only belongs to somebody without a tender understanding of humiliation.
“I don’t like writing. I like having written,” the boy said.
“Yeah,” drawled the girl sitting next to him, reading a red book.
I faced the walls of books, keeping my eyes away but my ears around.
“I think I just like watching the page numbers go up,” he said.
The girl nodded.
“That's probably what Tolstoy thought,” said the boy, his own throat rattling like a jail key in a jar, “you know, because War And Peace was so long.”
“Have you ever read War And Peace?”
The girl’s phone rang. She answered it and headed outside. I noticed what book the girl had been reading and I felt close to homesick. The boy fiddled with random books, which, for whatever reason, confirmed to me that he was inexperienced with women.
“Kid, either your head or your heart is going to explode if you keep up with that storm you call affection,” I said, my eyes still roving the books.
“I dated that girl years ago. Not her, obviously, but somebody close. And I’ve gathered you’re in love with her.”
“Well, I don't know if it's love.”
“How old are you?”
“It will be.”
“What will be?”
“I don’t know. You tell me,” I said, finally turning to look at him.
He stared emptily at me, which is quite a feat for teenagers, as their heads, if I remember it correctly, are like roomfuls of typewriters.
“I think I’m going to go see if everything’s alright,” he said, moving past me towards the exit.
“She's already found out about Vonnegut, hasn’t she?”
The boy stopped and came back. “Yeah. How did you know that? She's been reading him a lot lately.”
“And what do you read?”
“Whatever my teachers tell me to.”
I shook my head. “That’s not good enough, kid. Pretty soon, that girl’s going to be finishing A Clockwork Orange while you're just starting The Perks Of Being A Wallflower. If you want the intellectual, you can’t be young. You have to be smarter than age.”
“How do I do that?” the boy said asked sincerely.
“You make youth last.”
“I thought you said I can’t be young.”
“You’re only young until you’re old. If you make youth last, there’s no such thing as older.”
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.”
“I know you don’t, but I’m a lot older than you.”
“I thought you said there was no such thing as older.”
“That’s only if you make youth last.”
“No,” I said definitely.
“Like I told you before, I loved the same girl when I was your age.”
“And I didn’t love her right.”
“I'm sorry to hear that. What went wrong?”
“You don’t get to know.”
“Oh, sorry for prying.”
“Prying? Kid, I've been breaking and entering into your life for the last few minutes. No, I mean you don’t get to know because it'll ruin your chances with that girl outside. All I’m saying is you better tell her how you feel before she discovers Bukowski.”
“Because then it means she’s already read between the lines of Hemingway.”
The girl reappeared and I glided away like a specter, down the aisle, rummaging through the books until I found it. I opened up the copy of A Farewell To Arms I had seen so many times on my night table, on her night table and in the bookstore these last few years.
In an instant, I was sick.
My hands became oil-starved machines, creaking as they moved the pages with something that should’ve resembled grace. I read her name and my name on the title page and what I had written in between. Squeezing my eyes for a moment, I moved with an anguished fury to the counter and finally bought the goddamn thing. The cashier asked me if I was ok. I nodded and stalked back to the teenage boy as if the book was a gun. I shoved it into him and said, “Always believe there’s a future in the present, not a past.”