The passion is gone

I have offi­cial­ly lost it.

Five years ago, when I first began this job, I used to love being a book­seller. And even now, with my recent bit­ter­ness toward the high­er lev­els of the cor­po­ra­tion, with my dis­ap­point­ment at the direc­tion the com­pa­ny is turn­ing, and any hope I may have once had for a future with this com­pa­ny dwin­dling to noth­ing; with all the rage and hate that I have been keep­ing bot­tled up, unre­leased, inside my poor abused soul — with all that, I have all along con­soled myself with the knowl­edge that, at the bot­tom of it all, I was still, in prin­ci­ple, at least, doing some­thing I enjoyed and took pride in. Sell­ing books was intrin­si­cal­ly, some­thing worth doing, and no amount of cap­i­tal­ist shenani­gans could whol­ly eclipse that glow­ing truth.

Until today. Today I realised that, while I still firm­ly believe that book­selling is a noble call­ing, I per­son­al­ly can no longer even pre­tend to do it. And that is a cru­el truth to absorb into my already over­flow­ing soul.

It is the day before Mother’s Day, and the store is busy. A boy comes up to the infor­ma­tion desk. He is per­haps 12 or 13 years old, and is vis­i­bly ner­vous, painful­ly so. It is quite all he can do to get his ques­tion out, even though I am sure he had rehearsed it a hun­dred times:

Where would you have books for some­one who likes Jane Austen and Iris Mur­doch?”

Obvi­ous­ly the lad want­ed to find a nice gift for a moth­er whom he tru­ly loved, and he want­ed my help. No, worse, he need­ed my help. And I had noth­ing. I knew I should be able to point him toward at least a hand­ful of rec­om­men­da­tions for him, but I just couldn’t think of any­thing. I fee­bly point­ed him toward the Sis­ters Bron­të, and he was grate­ful. But I was cry­ing inside, and I only felt worse the more thought I gave it. This poor unsus­pect­ing lad had put his trust in me, and I had been entire­ly unde­serv­ing of that trust. I was no longer a wor­thy book­seller; I was a fraud, and — melo­dra­ma and hyper­bole aside — that was putting inno­cent peo­ple at risk, not of phys­i­cal harm, per­haps, but cer­tain­ly dis­ap­point­ment and even heart­break. That is no way to live, and I can’t do it any­more. I can’t do it myself, and I can’t do it to unsus­pect­ing oth­ers, either. It’s just not fair…

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