By Morna Young
There it is. I have seen pictures of it on websites and in guidebooks. The familiar yellow sign with green lettering.
SHAKESPEARE AND COMPANY.
I enter the bookstore and I’m greeted by “The Lost Generation.”
Hemmingway, Fitzgerald, Joyce. They are all there. Immortalized.
I bypass them, tilt my head and read the category subtitles: fiction a-z, history, geography. I wander with my head at an angle. Dozens and dozens of titles blur together. I pause when I see the drama section. I scan the shelves looking for Scottish writers but I can’t find any. I skim past Beckett and Ibsen and Miller.
I’m looking for something. I’m looking for something but I don’t know what it is.
I leave drama and enter poetry. A pink collection of love poems sits on a stand. I see blue books and green books, white, black, red, orange.
I reach a staircase and climb it. I click my fingers repeatedly, a sign that I am both tired and irritated.
Harry Potter greets me. I feel my love of children’s literature creep upon me. I stop to look at a beautiful edition of “Alice in Wonderland”; white with raspberry coloured flamingoes adorning it.
I follow the sound of music and find two teenage boys playing piano together in a room full of thick, dark hardbacks. They do not see me. I back away to avoid breaking their musical moment.
Another room with comfy seats. Readers sit quietly. I stand in the doorway and watch. It is a public room and, yet, I feel like I have entered a private space. I do not want to go in any further.
I see a wooden cubicle and approach it slowly. I duck my head and find myself inside a small booth with a broken typewriter. I press a few keys to hear the metallic noise. A childhood memory flickers.
Post it notes and little scraps of paper litter the inside of the booth. They are piled on top of each other, stuck overlapping on the wall; different handwriting scrawled in colored inks.
I read a torn note and a curious sensation hits me. I am surrounded by thoughts, memos and moments. The personal declarations of strangers.
I read another and another. Some are simple, often thanking Shakespeare and Company for their existence. Some are funny, commenting on the broken typewriter. Others share scattered sentiments: one thanks God for their purpose in life.
I have no idea how long I sit in the booth for. I feel strangely comforted here. In amongst the pockets of people, I have found my own little space.
I am about to leave when one, final note catches my eye:
Not all those that wander are lost.
A half laugh catches in my throat. There it is. Thank you Tolkien. Thank you stranger for leaving this.
I open my handbag and retrieve my diary. I rip out a small piece of paper. I write: From the ashes a fire shall be woken, A light from the shadows shall spring;
I leave my note on the desktop for the next wanderer to find.
© 2014, Morna Young
Morna Young is a playwright, actress and musician from Scotland. Her plays include Lost at Sea, Netting and Never Land. She won the New Playwright’s Award 2014 (Playwrights’ Studio, Scotland). For more about Morna Young see www.mornayoung.com.