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.
Taking a stroll without deciding on a goal or precise path seemed like a good way to fill in that planless time. The streets were crowded and the park was sprinkled with colors: An euphoric girl eating a popsicle, laughter, street vendors selling different kinds of trinkets. His shirt was sticking to the skin in no time. He envied the easy-going fellows that had the audacity to tie their shirts around their heads and enjoy the heat while sipping something cold. In his case, allowing himself a few moments of inactivity under a willow tree by the side of the lake, enveloped by the faint green tone he knew so well from his childhood, was eccentric enough.
The setting was an invitation to start reading. Among the books available―Harlequin novels, philosophy, Cervantes, Drummond―he selected an old edition of The Autumn of The Patriarch as company. At the edge of the park, there were some spots on the grass under the shade that were far away enough from the agitated children and dogs. There he found some comfortable seats and got close to silence. Still, the movement of restless people under the sun in all its exuberance was incessant.
He went through quite a few pages, but the narrative tone conflicted with the temperature that surrounded him, like a creeper sprightly growing during the raining season.
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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