Today in town I ventured into another Waterstones bookshop – one I do not often think about. This one has a basement. Not a ‘downstairs’ with windows and a revolving door – this place has no windows. No doors. Just a creaky staircase leading to the outside world.
The muffled pressure of thousands of voices bearing down on my from every direction… the smell… the rows upon rows of colourfully bound words screaming silently… I feel strangely overwhelmed. There is non-descript music droning in the background which drowns out the beautiful hush of the books.
It is interesting to see the people climbing down the creaking staircase; the students heading for the academic guides; the suited businessman towards ‘business management’; the grungy boy in glasses drawn to the sci-fi section (this may seem stereotypical but it is simply a current observation - I myself enjoy this genre). There is a tanned man in shorts (despite the rain) perusing the travel section, undoubtedly planning his next adventure.
All the while shadows in Waterstones uniforms move quietly between the shelves, their trolleys piled with lone copies of books gone awry. They pass unnoticed by shoppers consumed in their chosen pages. I feel a pang of jealousy for these ghosts in black.
And then there is me. Sitting, neutrally in the centre, not belonging to any section, any genre, in a slightly uncomfortable cushioned and for some reason animal-print armchair. I must look out of place, but I feel like I belong.