When I was a little girl, I discovered my love for fantasy books by reading Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I was nine years old and yes, I read the fourth book first before the rest of the series. But before then, there was an incident that made me love reading even more.
You see, at school we read local books like Chike and the River by Chinua Achebe and Sugar Girl by Kola Onadipe, and foreign books like Treasure Island, Oliver Twist, and so on, but the books at school just weren’t enough for me. Then one day on my way back from school, I noticed a little shop, squished in between other shops. If you didn’t look closely, you wouldn’t have noticed it. I decided to check it out, and lo and behold it was a bookshop. A really small one with every nook and cranny filled with books. It was like my own personal discovery. My own Secret Garden but instead of flowers it was filled with books.
It was owned by a Yoruba man who looked like he was in his early 30s. He was nice and allowed me to read any book I wanted as long as I read it in the bookstore and didn’t damage the book or dog-ear the pages. I went there whenever I had spare time and disturbed my parents for money to buy a book from him. They finally gave in and the first book I ever bought was from that bookshop.
It was titled The Adventures of Captain Underpants, it was a silly book about a spiteful principal who was mistakenly hypnotized into being a superhero called Captain Underpants by two kids. I loved it so much though and it was hard to part with it even when I entered University because of the memories it held. I finally had to give it away to one of my neighbour’s kids, who I hope enjoyed it as much as I did. Those days were one of my happiest, surrounded by the smell of new and old books as I read.
People hardly came to the bookshop so it was like my little private corner of the world. It was easy to miss a small shop like that on the busy streets of Lagos. But that wasn’t so good for business and one day the owner told me that he was closing down the bookstore. I was so sad and couldn’t quite understand why with my childish mind. He told me to choose a book and he would give it to me for free as a parting gift. I chose one from the Pokémon Junior series, said my goodbyes and went home.
I didn’t go there during the weekend, then on my way back from school the next week I realized that I couldn’t find the bookshop anymore. Had it been swallowed up by the shops all around it or was it never really there? I even asked around, but no one knew. He had left just as quietly as he came.
Over the years I forgot about it until recently and now the memory fills me with such nostalgia. The little bookshop I found and lost in my childhood. Sometimes I wonder if the owner is still alive and if he is, would I ever meet him again? Would he be happy that I still love books just as much? If one day I go back to my old neighbourhood, would I find that bookshop again? A girl can dream! Well, my love for books didn’t die down after that, it only grew stronger and here I am now.