A bookstore is one of my favourite places on earth.
I would lo-ho-hove to say it was the library but libraries here, you see, are scarce.
I was born in El Salvador and on top of that I received a religious education. I grew up...isolated. "The library" for me was a tiny room at the end of the hall at school. No chairs just half-emptied shelves holding a few classics, a dozen New Testaments and gospel pamphlets in bulk.
The one rule: books were not allowed to leave.
So the bookstore it was.
Unlike that nothingroom at the end of the hall at the bookstore I could find entire walls, top-to-bottom-filled halls of books.
Mazes of halls with walls of books.
Book heaven, hallelujah! It was every little girls' dream come true (because this is what other girls referred to as castles, right?)
My parents are not readers themselves so my love for books is not a hereditary condition. They are both doing fine and not seeking professional help at the moment.
How or why I made my way into a bookstore is still a mystery. My bet is on my grandfather though.
Anyways I'm telling ya', this place had it all! I'm talking categories and even a couch that seemed comfy and inviting although I swear I never saw anybody sitting on it.
My personal theory is that Salvadorians are profoundly conditioned by the "mayugar" fear.
"Si no compra no mayugue" is the Salvadorian equivalent of "if you brake you pay".
This sentence is a reproach you get as a potential costumer when -within a trading context- you make any energetic shift or body gesture that may imply your potential desire of asking the price of a certain product in order to consider buying it. Gestures such as but not exclusive to 'eye contact'. Anything that can be interpreted as a manifestation of interest by a sales person.
Trust me "mayugar" is not something you want to do, it is something you should be afraid of. A disgrace of some sort.
This is why I think no one liked to use the couch because no one wanted to be perceived as that person who came and flipped through the books but never bought anything. (I understand decorum is something that dates back to Colonial time)
I was in High School and I used to ask to be taken to the bookstore after school. I -the rebellious teenager that I was- sat on the floor where I would spend the afternoon flipping through pages, half intrigued and half amazed at the twitches in my stomach. Something I had only read of when being used to describe the symptoms of being in love.
Never underestimate the power of the Babysitter Club. Those books were the founding pillars of what later expanded to become my small but cherished collection. I demanded a bookshelf, inside my room please. A bookshelf to hold the books I was allowed and could afford to buy. Each of them becoming my roommates. The best-friend kind.
And I'm talking friend in the pre "bff" era. Back in the day not everyone was your "best friend forever". That was like marriage. Something you wouldn't commit to lightly. It was a pact.
That is exactly what my book collection started to shape into. A mature, consensual relationship of mutual respect where no book would be left behind. Someday I'll tell the stories of the multiple times I've had to pay over weight penalties because my luggage was too heavy from traveling with my books and maybe one day I'll talk about the time I carried two 60lbs luggage cases from Charles de Gaulle to Montparnasse and from Montparnasse to Gard du Nord all while taking the metro. Don't you just love Paris? I didn't have to take a single taxi, not once! I did lose one of the handles and one of the cases lost its shape.
It was not until I lived in France and then Spain that I learned how to use a public library and it was while living in Madrid that I got to enjoy living two blocks away from one.
On Saturday mornings Heinz and I would wake up without setting the alarm. We had found the one place where we could get decent coffee (good coffee was a struggle) and empanadas. This place was owned by a guy from Argentina. That meant alfajores for dessert.
Breakfast then the library. I could take out three books at a time, no questions asked. I was given a return date and was entrusted with the goodies. A fix to satisfy my book addiction that complied with my living-with-minimum-posessions pledge.
Now that I'm back in El Salvador I don't miss the library in terms of access. I still, even if it's because I buy them, read a good amount of books. What I can say is that I miss having books as basic commodity. Free access to books is currently unimaginable.
Such are the disillusions of a love affair. There may be love but it's hardly ever fair.
I daydream of bookshelves.
The only reason I want to own a big house is for the high bolted ceilings, ceilings that will hold my sky-high bookshelves.
And one of those little ladders.
To all of you book lovers, word-devouer bookworms reading three or more books at a time, carrying the weight of hard-cover books on your back, I will confess that I've done it too...
I too bought an an e-reader! I too filled it with e-books, divided them into categories only to end up traveling with both books and my Kindle.
There's no shame my friends but there's also no way out. You can't tame the curiosity in you...and why would you?
Support the reader, feed the seeker.
It doesn't matter what format they come in, it is always wise to surround yourself with a good support system.
Don't listen to what everyone else says, you do need more books! Humberto Ecco says so.
There will always be more space.
It is also wise to find a space for you too, somewhere you can pour your own thoughts. Whether it's in the arms of an understanding partner or the quiet pages of a journal. Speak up your mind. Your words are just as meaningful as the ones you read and they deserve to be written, spoken and shared.
I'm signing out giving a final shout out to the The Babysitter Club. You got a few of us hooked to the good stuff. Sitters, you did a pretty good job. You did a fine job.