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.
One of the covers caught his eyes because of the discolored image that complemented the bad title. He picked up the book and analyzed the old photograph, approaching it from the edges. The sepia tone resembled that of the street that had taken him there. The leaves that had moved from the top of the trees to the sidewalks and the not-so-lush grass made him mentally retrace his steps to where he was before he decided to have a drink to rid himself of the cold that hadn’t yet come to stay.
He didn’t read a single paragraph; he simply went through the pages and stumbled upon this or that word, but nothing seemed to have the same shade of that scene on the cover. He longed for his grandparents’ house, the smell of warm bread that would welcome him back home from school, and the homework he had to finish before he could bit off the soft dough sprinkled with fennel seeds and struggle with the layer of cream that would form on the surface of his coffee and milk. He motioned to loosen the tie he wasn’t wearing at that moment―the knot on his throat was what really bothered him.
He left the reading and babbling aside, took a long deep breath and chose the least straight line possible to go on walking and let the afternoon wear itself out. Through those streets where he wasn’t used to walk, he dedicated his slow pace―somewhere between apathy and diligent movements―to observing the façade of old buildings. Some well-preserved houses transported him back to the time when the neighborhood was occupied by prosperous business owners who, during intense summers, would talk to their neighbors on the sidewalk while the heat did not favor any interaction inside due to the lack of an HVAC system. Imagining the routine from past times was a way to melt away his discontent with the present. It gave him the improbable satisfaction of comparing the everyday tranquility with the absent converser at his house. It filled him with the warmth of others―he could almost feel their caress. He was happy to see the colors that his eyes captured on exuberant flower beds, despite the fact that they seemed a little thirsty, and the shreds of music that escaped to the sidewalk. The act of postponing his usual silence enhanced the inseparable joy he felt by the absence of walls and brought about an unprecedented decision: He would call Andrea to go watch the sun set over river Guaíba, as they used to do in the past.
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