Nobody knows how exactly they crossed paths. It’s said that they’ve been here every evening ever since the bookstore opened. We were so busy putting the new arrivals onto the shelves during the first week and it was only when things started to settle down did we notice them. Day after day they were sitting on the exact same bench just inches apart. The funny thing is that no matter how depressed or crappy they felt at office during the day, they always cheered up almost instantly in each other’s presence every evening here at the bookstore. It was like they didn’t care if the world outside had become a sea of depression. They were each other’s world.
Not once have they ever spoken a word to each other. I guess they were shy or maybe they were afraid of losing that special bond that they have. Whatever the reasons may be, they were savoring every moment that they spent reading silently in each other’s presence. Before long, their unspoken romance breathed a nice refreshing atmosphere into this place for everyone who had a rough day at work. In the world outside this bookstore, people had only known physical pleasures to be a cure all remedy for whatever life throws at them. Like having a constant fix of drugs to reach that much needed high only to sink into a dark hole of depression once all was said and done. Slowly, as the days pass by, their world began to unravel and change as well the more they notice the two love birds. This bookstore and the two love birds had became their focal point for what was normal.
Unfortunately, like all fleeting good moments in life, the heart of this bookstore seemed to fade away over time. For some reason, she had suddenly stopped visiting the bookstore. He other hand had tried his very best to hide his disappointment on that evening but on the following days, disappointment changed into sadness and before long his eyes were telling us how heart broken he was feeling. From time to time I would walk over to him and give some reassurance telling him that maybe she was having the flu and was at home recovering. It helped pacify him for a week or so before the gloom and despair began to drowning him again. One night after everyone had gone home, I was busy putting books back where they belong. Seeing as how she might not be coming back, I decided to put her favorite book back in it’s proper place. It was only then that I noticed something barely sticking out between the pages. When I flipped opened the book to where it was, I was shocked to find an envelope. It was labeled : To my “Alistair MacLean”.
It turned out they didn’t know each other’s name, but they did have their own favorite author. In his case, he enjoyed reading war time adventure stories written by “Alistair MacLean”. The envelope wasn’t sealed and it was so tempting to look inside but it just wasn’t right. I’ve decided to hold onto it and give it to him the following evening. It may be a break up letter, it could be a detailed explanation for her disappearance, or even a letter of love and admiration. Whether it was, it would help him find some closure.
To my dismay, he did not show up at the bookstore the following evening… nor did he show up the day after that. Days passed by and it had dawned on all of us that he has most likely buried himself in work at office or worse still, too heartbroken to leave home and look the world in the eye. The atmosphere inside the bookstore nowadays seemed to match the weather outside. The anchors for what was normal had long disappeared and everything began drifting away much like how everything outside were being swept away by strong gusts of wind. Hurricane season was almost upon us and news reports have estimated it’s arrival on land by tomorrow morning. It was possibly going to be the last day for this bookstore. My colleagues and I had no choice but to close down the bookstore that evening in preparation for the hurricane season.
On that very night after closing hours, I’ve decided to take a different route back home which had slightly more shelter from the strong winds. It was only when I turned round a corner a few blocks from the bookstore that I stumbled across an unmoving silhouette of a man standing at the bus stop. I had no idea whether the buses were still running tonight. The streets were devoid of anyone save for the two of us. Since the bus service would most likely be down tonight, I figured I better suggest he walk it the rest of the way home assuming he did not live that far. The closer I got to him, the more his features struck out at me with a sense of familiarity. My suspicions were confirmed when I finally did get a good look at his face. It was him, still submerged in gloom and despair as when I last saw him. He didn’t seem to notice me though, nor did he seem to notice how the strong winds were making his coat flap in the wind. It was as though he was waiting for the strong winds to sweep him off along with everything else that has been long gone. Those eyes of his were staring blankly at the road, no doubt he was feeling lost. I had seen that look before with so many other people. They keep recalling memories of the last few days before everything fell apart, constantly trying to find any detail that had been missed, any answer at all to comfort them, and most importantly to find that much needed closure to move on with life. Without help from anyone else, most people would find themselves locked in a never-ending loop searching for answers. It seemed to be the case for him as well as so many weeks had already gone by.
I put my left hand on his right shoulder, took out the envelope from my jacket and held it in front of his eyes. It took a while for him to register the envelope in front of his face before reaching out for it. The strong wind around us had eased down while I was handing him the envelope. Suddenly, the wind picked up strength again with such force that we were both knocked down onto the sidewalk. We watched in horror as the strong wind swept the envelope away from us. Without wasting much time, he frantically got back on his feet and gave chase. I followed him in pursuit as soon as I was on my feet and it wasn’t hard to keep an eye on the envelope as it was the only thing left that was being carried away by the wind. We chased it through numerous empty alley ways and streets before another gust of wind carried it through wide open doors of a hospital lobby. That last gust of wind had carried the envelope quite a distance into the hospital until it had rested on the lower trays of a food trolley. We ran as fast as possible to catch up to the food trolley as a nurse was pushing it into an elevator. Unfortunately for us the elevators closed shut before we could get to it. The only thing we could do was to keep an eye on the level indicator above the elevator doors to see where the elevator stops. A few seconds later we got our answer – level 15 and got into another elevator to head to that floor.
When we arrived at level-15, we got out from the elevator and scanned the corridors to the left and right of us. We couldn’t see the trolley anywhere in sight but we could hear the faint squeak of trolley wheels whenever the food trolley was on the move. It sounded like it came from the right hand corridor and so we picked up our pace, headed towards the end of the corridor. Suddenly, all the lights on level-15 went out just as we were about to turn round the corner at the end of the corridor. No doubt the weather outside had gone from bad to worse. A few seconds later, the hospital’s backup generator kicked-in and all power to the floor was restored. When we did go round the corner, we were greeted by a long brightly lit corridor which ended with an emergency exit door. The food trolley was nowhere in sight and there was no way anyone can go through the emergency exit without setting off the alarms. We slowly walked down the corridor all the way to the end hoping to hear the squeaking wheels of the trolley. Unfortunately for us, there was no more squeaking sound nor was there any mark or trace left on the floor by the trolley’s wheels. It was as though the food trolley had never come this way. In the end, he lowered himself onto the floor and just sat there staring down the corridor, no doubt with another loop playing in his mind about what we could have done differently to avoid getting into the situation we were in.
After letting him gather his thoughts for a while, I helped him up and suggested we go get a cup of coffee and something to eat before heading back out. On the way back to the elevators through the seemingly quiet corridor, we were startled by a door opening on our right and we could overhear a nurse reassuring a patient in the room…
“Don’t worry, I’m sure he will be there waiting for you once this storm blows over. From what you’ve told me, the two of you were meant for each other”
After hearing that, I thought to myself what were the odds of his long lost companion being the patient with whom the nurse was talking to ? At this point, he didn’t really care whether the nurse felt our presence as an intrusion. All he wanted to do was see who was the patient. As soon as he walked past the nurse and into the room, the sadness that was on his face faded away and was replaced by a small smile which grew with each step that he took. She on the other hand had not noticed his presence as she was still staring out through the windows, trapped in the same gloom and despair that had drowned him. That changed though, when he slid his fingers into her right hand. A warm smile began appearing on her face while she was still facing the window. Instinctively, she knew it was him without looking and when she did turn to face him they both found each other’s eyes filled with tears of joy.