Oh! For the Love of Books – An Almost Fairy Tale

I feel like bookshops are magical places, inspiring magical stories... Here's a fairy tale inspired by a bookshop - or is it?

Once upon a time there was a bookish, insecure girl who thought bookshops were magical places that could solve all her problems. Whenever she was happy, she celebrated it by going into a bookshop and buying a book she’d wanted to read for a long time. Whenever she was sad, she drowned her sorrows by buying a book that was about someone whose life was even worse than her own. Whenever she felt lonely, she would visit a bookshop so the books would comfort her like the friends she felt she didn’t have. Sometimes she thought books could not only solve her problems, but everyone else’s, too. And that is how this story starts, when she had to buy a birthday present for a friend.

Not being able to imagine buying anything but books for her friends, she decided to visit her favourite bookshop to find him a nice present. He wasn’t bookish like her, but instead more science-fictionish, and she was convinced he wouldn’t mind receiving a science-fictionish present which just happened to be a book.

(It just took her quite a long time to reach it, for there were many other books drawing her attention, and, being quite a nice person and knowing it was rude to ignore those calling her name, she picked up all of them. Also, she wasn’t feeling terribly happy that day, so she needed these books to calm her down. She eventually put three books, all of which looked particularly pretty and comforting, in her basket with the present intended for the friend.)

After that wonderful half hour of browsing, after which her initial sadness had completely evaporated, she wanted to pay for her new books and the birthday present. While walking down the stairs, giddy with excitement about having found yet three more additions to her bookshelf, as well as what she considered the perfect birthday gift, she almost tripped over her own feet. Out of breath and gripping the till tightly with one hand to avoid falling over in earnest, she hurriedly put her new books in front of the cashier with the other hand, trying not to drop them on the floor. The cashier started laughing, and she was sure it was because she was looking ridiculous. But then he said:

         “That Star Trek design book is so cool! I’ve wanted to buy it for ages! Have you seen the series?”

         “Erhm, yes, I have,” she said, relieved that he wasn’t laughing at her because she looked like she would lose her balance any second now, her knuckles white from clutching at the counter.

         “That is amazing! I started watching it a couple of months ago with a friend of mine. We started with the original series, and now we’re halfway through The Next Generation.”

         “Oh my,” she said, feeling her inner nerd getting the upper hand, her voice getting slightly louder, “then you’re up for some great episodes. Trust me, you’ll love it.”

The conversation lasted for another couple of minutes, until she remembered that the book which started it was, in fact, a birthday gift. He wrapped it up, said goodbye, and she left. She was happy her favourite bookshop had such genuinely bookish employees…

Have you already started wondering what will happen? Do you think they might end up seeing much more of each other and live nerdy ever after? The problem is, this girl was never interested in the bookish employee in that way. I’m sorry, but this isn’t a fairy tale (partly my fault, I’m afraid, considering the title).

So here’s what really happened: I cycled home and told my boyfriend what had happened. He laughed at me, in much the same way as Bob (for that’s what I decided to call him, since I liked the sound of that name) had laughed at me earlier.

“I bet he’s got a crush on you, that one.”

I told him of course that wasn’t the case, for hardly anyone looks at me that way, even though my boyfriend continuously assures me that many men most certainly do, and moved on with my life.

Occasionally, I saw Bob again at the bookshop. And yes, he did stare at me whenever I walked in, and he did crane his neck to see where I was going, and he did look pretty disappointed when I visited with my boyfriend, but he still greeted me happily every time I saw him, and I greeted him back. I must admit it did wonders for my self-esteem, because it made me realise I can just be myself and people might even like me for it. I always enjoyed seeing bookshop Bob.

Until, eventually, he wasn’t there anymore. My boyfriend claimed that Bob had left because I never gave him the attention he so desperately wanted. But I like to think he had gone to work at an even better bookshop. He had made a big promotion, and he would now be in charge of ordering the books that would eventually be bought by bookish girls like me. I hope that Bob will eventually find a girl that will return his affection, so they can watch Star Trek together (by that time, he will have watched it three times already, but he definitely won’t mind watching it yet again) and talk about the books they love. And they will live happily ever after.

Like I said: This isn’t a fairy tale. This story isn’t about finding true love. No dragon was slayed, no princess was woken up. In fact, nothing really happened at all. Instead, it’s about an insecure bookish girl who found out that she was more likeable than she realised.

Epilogue: I went to the bookshop yesterday. While paying for yet another huge pile of books, a male employee started talking to me.

“Oh, did you order a Kurt Vonnegut novel? Good. He’s quite a droll writer. There are also quite a few droll lectures of his online, you should look them up.”

He didn’t really listen to my reply. In fact, he sounded quite pretentious to me, using words like “droll” – twice! All his ponderous chitchat did was make me think of Bob. I wonder how he’s doing.

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