It was so cold inside the bookstore. The lighting was cozy, but the lack of openings on the walls did not allow him to guess the color of the sky outside the mall, which separated him from reality ― something that the clock alone was unable to resolve.

The tall bookshelves made of dark wood felt good to the touch and were nice to look at, but when he touched them he had the impression that he should be wearing warmer clothes. The speed at which people were walking around caused some discomfort. Most of them were customers coming into the store, approaching the clearly-labeled shelves and, after a little bit of effort to find what they were looking for, walking back to the cashier with the object of their interest in their hands. There were only one or two people who, like him, browsed through the shelves without asking for help from a salesperson and the computer terminal. He had given it a try once, but if the young girl didn’t even know how to type the name he had mentioned, how could he exchange some ideas with her about the author and his work? He’d better look for it himself while walking around aimlessly.

Walking aimlessly was a good way to spend some idle time, he thought, taking a book under his arm. He tried the path made of hard-packed dirt between the seedbeds, collecting dust on his shoes. From afar, he saw children who didn’t mind the dirt stuck to their skin and didn’t even seem to miss the TV or videogames.

Someone seemed to have waved at him from a distance, but it could just be his imagination. Still, he waved back and kept following the winding path, letting the warm wind carry him through a light course, like the movement of the swing he had on the balcony of the house where he grew up. He felt an urge to go back there for good.

Before undertaking the walk back home, he tried to make himself comfortable on the grass near the old bandstand. The shade welcomed him and the yellowed pages offered themselves to him.

When he was sure that he would be unable to focus on reading, he stared with an honest hostility at people coming and going and decided to leave. Weaving through the crowd of window shoppers had become his routine. With no money even for a coffee, he walked against the clock that set a time limit for the exile from his usual territory. Out on the street, he watched life moving around him, trying to allow himself to feel the soul that left him bit by bit each winter and not always came back after the cold had gone away. Indifferent to his search, people walked past him taking purposeful steps―some were talking on the phone, making arrangements for dinner or happy hour; others walked without a destination, holding hands and oblivious to their surroundings. There were also some who simply sat at a bar watching the traffic through their drinking glasses. He was avoiding the only path available, allowing himself to be consumed by the lack of protection. He was lucky enough to get on the bus before the rain came down; otherwise, the book he still intended to read would end up getting soaking wet. Lucky indeed, even though he didn’t know where that bus would take him.

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