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…