Tuesday, February 22, 2011

We Border on a New Day

Draped across the storefront the oversized banner beacons - Store Closing.

One more time around, I circle the parking lot. Resigned to a long walk, I pull into a stall and reconsider. Do I really want to go to Borders today? Is there anything there that I need?

Silent, I study the people. Moms, dads, women with strollers, men in wheelchairs, children, couples hand-in-hand all on a direct course to the entrance, unfettered in their goal, and the answer is clear. Yes, I need to go to Borders. Today.

I note the customary guidelines. All sales final. No checks. 20-40% off. A meager discount at best. No big deal.

Yet the people keep coming.

“What’s up with this?” a man asks, “Out of business?”

I nod yes and sigh.

“My wife and I are just waiting to see Black Swan at the Cinema next door .” His stature gives him a good focal point as he sizes up the crowd. “We had no idea.”

“You’ll like Black Swan.” I offer, lost in observation of the impending change. No more movies, Applebee's drinks and late nights at Borders.

He eases into a gentle banter and says, “I wanted to see True Grit but the wife…” He shrugs with consignment, “Ballerinas.”

Ah yes, poor man, I strive to redirect his perception and not give away the plot. “It’s about mental illness.”

Brows furrow, his night just worsened.

“Great sex,” I spice up the prospect and walk on.

Yes, I will miss movie night and the Border chatter I note as I relocate to the New Release section. While I thumb through the latest New York Best Seller, a face peers between the racks.

My new friend’s beard tickles the top edge of Dean Koontz as he shares, “I usually watch the Christian channel. Do you think, that, maybe---?”

My sense is that conflict is now part of movie night.

I look to the left, to the right. With no wife in sight, I purse my lips along the book spines and propose, “You can close one eye.”

Satisfied, he taps the tickets in his pocket and perks up.

In truth, I know temptation will win and he’ll keep both eyes open. Wide open.

I shut the book, place it back on the rack and pause. A palatable energy is in the room. This is more than a bookstore. It’s a place of community.

Soon, I understand. This isn’t about a good bargain. There are none to be found. It’s a wake. An honor. A rite of passage.

Weaving in and out of the rows like a confused hamster, an older gentleman ponders, “Where’s the end of the line?”

I point towards the back end of the building. Grateful, he scurries to the distant wall. Nearby, I take a head count.

Over sixty patrons stand in wait. The line extends to the far corner of the Children’s section and beyond. With each transaction, they creep in unison.

No one orchestrates the movement. There is no employee directing customers to the back of the line. There are no ropes or rails to mark the path.

There are no borders. The way is clear. Forward.

No fights, grumbles or cut-in-line crashers. Patience is the virtue of the hour.

More than a moment, it’s a chance to share with a stranger behind you, in front of you and on the side, the memories, the moments and the sadness; an understanding of the finality - that the opportunity to meet at this location is no more.

“Borders may be dead, but books are not,” I say to a thirty-something customer, excited with the possibilities of the possibilities.

“I love books. I love to read.” His answer resonates through the crowd as he shuffles one step closer to his all-sales-are-final purchase. He has no doubt. His purchase is final. It is more than a sale. It’s a tribute. A statement.

Yes, I needed to go to Borders today.

As an author, I’m ecstatic. As a patron, I’m part of a movement. As a person, I am better for the experience.

Perhaps, this was Borders failure.

Doomed in the end by a word. One word. Borders.

There are no borders on creativity, imagination and the people connection.

Renewed in spirit, I trace a paperback with my fingertip. Hello old friend. Close to my face, I breathe in the familiar smell and flip the pages so the breeze gently feathers my hair. The energy of the written word embraces my spirit. Powerful images created by the sculptor of beginnings, middles and ends.

With a final glance, I thread through the customers still browsing the racks and memorize the scene.

Yes, Borders may be dead in the San Francisco Bay Area but books are alive in the wake.

We border on a new day without Borders.


Cynthia Ballard Borris, author No More Bobs and humor columnist

Copyrighted 2-21-11

1 comment:

Bookfool said...

So sad. I know exactly what you mean about it being a wake. When I heard Borders was on the verge of bankruptcy, I rushed to the only Borders in the entire state. I couldn't bear the thought that they might suddenly pack up and disappear without my having a chance to walk around the books, soaking up the ambience and the smell and the sound of booklovers shuffling around quietly. As it turned out, our store survived because it's the only one in the state *and* it's doing a booming business. Wahoo! I still had a great time giving them a little cash infusion. :)