You don’t know me very well. You know the version of me you see in the store. You’ve seen the green hair and the goofy smile, you’ve heard the unnatural speed of my speech and the weird little chuckle at the end of my sentences. But you, dear bookstore customers, you are essential. The world is burning, the president is a toddler and Jeff Sessions is a heartless little Keebler elf, but you are keeping me sane.
It’s been nineteen months since Agent Orange was elected, and every day a different headline threatens to crush the hope in me that in spite of so many beatings manages to squeak out: “Gaaaaah I’m still here!” Some days I’ve looked up from my phone where a news alert has once again left my jaw on the floor and have come *this* close to tapping someone on the shoulder to ask, “Hey buddy, can you see me? Like, what dystopian novel does this nightmare take place in? Am I property here? Can I vote?” I’ve told myself that it couldn’t possibly get worse, but of course it very often has. It’s difficult to maintain focus and productivity when a constant cacophony of atrocities fights for my attention.
I do my best. I wake up and maybe get in a workout, allowing the sweat in my eyes and the burn in my muscles to distract me for a precious hour. I shower, I nourish, I do a little writing. I sip some tea and then head to work at the little indie bookstore where I am a bookseller. Then I wait.
I wait for you. You, the woman who buys books like some people buy coffee, who always wants to know what I’m reading, who brings me a loaf of fresh bread (even though you took a few slices for yourself) and gets the name of books just a little bit wrong, making me erupt with laughter. You, the guy whose twins I’ve watched grow from teeny babies to one-year-old crawling machines, who brings the boys by the store on your daily walks to chat about everything from books to gardening. You, the man who comes in wearing a little girl’s backpack and who buys a book both for himself and the excited granddaughter who owns said bag. You, the lady who loves Flavia de Luce like I do and smiles whenever you say my name.
It’s the book stuff, sure. My little bookish heart alights each time I get to match you with your next great read. I love our debates on which big, buzzy, books we found supremely overrated and fangirl/boying over the under-the-radar reads that took our breath away. I give a little fist-pump each time you fill the seats of our author events. It warms my heart to see that you’re teaching your children to love books like we do.
But it’s more than your affinity for the written word. It’s your passionate and persistent support of our bookstore and the other small businesses in our community. It’s how you voice your desire for change and for progress. It’s the moments when our talks turn from books to the state of the world and how we might each make it better. It’s the genuine interest you take in our conversations. It’s the word of mouth that brings other bookstore customers like you through our doors.
Thank you, customers dear, for loving books. Thank you for buying books. Thank you for befriending the bookseller. You remind me that all is not lost and that humanity will prevail. My hope screams a little louder and prouder thanks to you. It’s still here.