The books started from the passage from the main street entrance. They formed a path, then a maze, then decorations to the stairs and the inner gate. Walking in felt like visiting your eccentric uncle’s apartment, the one with a books with a bit of an apartment. This was the catacombs of book heaven. The style was retro chaos and stale urea was the staple smell.
I waited for her by a shelf with Arthur Miller, Freud, and a hundred other authors I hadn’t heard of. Whilst tilling the soil further, a few copies of a book by Hanif Kureishi, her favorite author, fell my way. I messaged her with hurry-up exclamation marks. I wished they’d make a bridge in the sky so she’d get here faster. The excursion to the city’s largest bookstore was finally happening. I was on a date with books and this woman whom I love.
Kerri picked up books and examined them, like she would never buy them, but always cherish them. She didn’t have a grammar of literary criticism about books, didn’t need to squeal and gesticulate at the lift of every book, or turn her nose up at bestsellers. No, that was me. She was a lover of all books for they were her solace. She was the strong, silent type, taking in the glories of dust, neglected shelves, and I was a snotty, loud-mouthed faux-literary snob, who still wanted to make out with her against a shelf of obscure German art history books.
“There’s a lot of dust here.”
“Shut up!,” she smacked my arm and then her hand stayed there, just long enough for me to sigh. It stayed to linger, squeeze, then fly away.
“There’s that squeeze again.”
“We all know you’re the master…,” she turned from some random annal to throw me a sly look, “groper.”
“Yes. That is I,” I intoned, as I pulled her into me and grabbed her butt with both hands and kissed her through her girly giggles.
“Omagod stop, someone might see us.”
“Yes, the grumpy shop assistant and the elevator have seen us, oh no-”
She pulled away from my lips and rested her forehead on them instead. “You’re leaving me.”
Yeah. I was leaving the country.
“Not quite that, though.”
“It’s what it feels like.”
She walked ahead of me. We must have been on the fourth floor, shoulders deep in history books. And I must have gone through every infantile gag, every inside joke we had accrued, and looked at her startlingly beautiful eyes three times over.
“Wow. Look at all this… when could you get through it all?”
“Yeah… I keep coming here, and it just doesn’t end.”
“I could literally make up a subject and we’d find a book about it,” I said, while I flipped through a luxurious architecture book.
“You’re so dramatic, yawn.”
“Is that a challenge?”
“Bring it!” she chuckled as she looked away.
“What kind of challenge averts eye contact?” I hugged her from behind.
“Mine… so, are we doing this challenge or what — ok wow..”
I found my favorite place on her neck.
“How about… illicit sex in contemporary Cape Town?”
“You’re so full of shitt…”
She pulled away throwing me a wanting look over her shoulder. “Come on, Demian”
I recognized this section, a narrow passageway decorated with yet another avalanche of books. “Hey, I remember this place, it’s got first editions.”
“You go first,” I hurried her along from her hips.
“You dont hide the fact you want to check out my ass”
We followed the passage that wrapped around, like that snake around the pharmacy sign. It was getting quieter and my ears were ringing, my body telling me I’m about to enter a special moment.
There was a forlorn chair at the cul-de-sac. I sat down to watch her mill around looking at C.S. Lewis and Hardy.
“Look at all this… wait… I’m alone with an Arab in a quiet spot of a shop, I should be worried, right?”
She looked like a dork when she smiled big. and was being bigoted.
“Whatever, Grodzel. Come here.”
She sat on my lap and turned towards me, trying to escape my gaze as usual.
“Thank you for today. I really enjoyed it.”
I rubbed her thigh. “I’m glad we finally got it done.”
“Because you always get it done, Mina.” She sighed. With her slender finger, she drew into the sand of my face and escaped for a while.
I paused. “You’re my first edition… you know that, right?”
I could see a hurried meeting in her eyes, trying to decide to tell me that that was corny but she stopped mid gulp. “That’s so… real.”
“I love you so much, kerry… I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be.. it’s your life… you have to do you… but…”
Her eyes wilted. “What, Kerry?”
“I’d wish you’d not say real stuff when you’re leaving.”
I wondered if she had the same ringing in her ears now.
“but… it wouldn’t hurt to hear it once last time…”
“You’re my first edition.”
And I kissed her, trying to pour my heart past her glistening tongue, for her to keep me with her for a while before she would blot me out.