Box of Books
The glass box glowed. It glowed so brightly you could not see inside. What you could see was what came out of it: a swirl of lacing smoke and the ambient light that feathered into the black like slow fog fades into first blush. We walked closer. The canary luminescence and glass sparkled. We tripped across grotty stone steps that had been thrown into the ground as if a giant had plodded his sloppy fingers into cold dirt. The wind galloped. The nearer we came the less box-like it seemed. We knew, of course, that this wasn’t a glass box at all. The illuminated prism we approached was a greenhouse. It was full of books.
I pushed against the door to escape the wind. But glass doors to glass structures don’t swing open. They slide. Within, flimsy shelves protruded from the right and left sides. The greenhouse was small — no bigger than our front room. But it was warm. Inside, it smelled like outdoors. At a desk in the corner, a man in a thick sweater and scarf sat next to the wood burning stove. As it was a very small area and there was no one else inside, we exchanged hello’s and shuffled near the fire. It was 9:00 and no one had visited since before dinner. The Internet was down. A slow evening. But The Paris Review on display made for good company. Thrice we exchanged interests, taking turns swapping accomplishments, learning backgrounds, discovering commonalities. No music played. I was surprised the howling wind was not louder against the glass panes. I ventured if the space was unbearable in summer. Yes, the man said. On some days, it swelters. There were cushions near the front, stacked high. Upholstered in seersuckered summer — red-and-white striped canvas that conjured beach vacations and cold drinks. I imagined hazy glass in July’s late dusk, the earthy smell of perspiration lingering between visitors. Once crisp stock wilting below humid swells of air, its youthful sharpness would go limp to the touch. The clear door would remain open, allowing in a breeze far different than the one from which we sought to leave this very evening.
All while we spoke, I could not shake the peculiar feeling of being inside a glass case at night. The synthetic light inside glared and reflected on the walls. Our bodies looked to be outside, and the blustery evening came in close. Suddenly arriving upon a greenhouse bookshop seemed a perfectly natural occurrence. We browsed the shelves, and forgot to look up at the stars. From within, we disregarded exteriors. Time left. I bought a book. Our words weakened into repeated salutations and wishes for one another. We said goodbye, slid open the glass door to screaming wind and stumbled across the grey stone path.
Later from the window of the restaurant, we would watch the man walk outside and tie up his scarf. Just beyond the fading yellow glow he would light a cigarette, a burning ember flickering red near his lips, dartling at his fingers, moving near his hip. And then it was gone, smashed on the stone steps. We would watch as he walked back into the greenhouse, leaving us with only our own glimmering reflections.