14 November 2019
i'm talking to P in the bookshop. she's stayed after her shift, into mine, and we start this amazing conversation in which we are incandescently ourselves, until someone walks into the shop, at which point we become these Other People.
it's a circumstance we don't acknowledge until about two hours in, when P mentions how hard it is to stay human when she spends so much time at work. a place where-- because it is retail and there is this annoying thing called the public-- it feels like one often is called upon to perform.
in the midst of this, a customer comes in who is on her phone. she throws her books on the counter, throws her card on the counter, picks her books up as soon as i scan them, then asks why i didn't ask her if she wants a bag.
in this whole interaction, i'm aware i'm performing a double-act: denying the customer the gift of my kindness, because she is clearly being an ass, while also deriving pleasure from the knowledge that P is watching this, she knows what is going on, and we will discuss it and laugh about it later-- a circumstance that will affirm our collective humanity.
which sounds overwrought and faintly ridiculous while also being entirely true. this is the power of other people: in small failures of generosity they can make you feel invisible, even as, in bearing witness to such small failures, someone else can make you feel more alive.
filed under: book selling