The sound of oversized boots dragging across wooden floors announced that it was 2:40 p.m. Shuffles, as we called her, would arrive each day, walk to the back of the store where the cash desk was situated, touch three things, and then turn around and slump on to her next stop. She had a mop of tangled white blonde hair, a hawkish nose, and a lower lip that protruded, likely due to lack of teeth. She never said a word, and only occasionally, when I’d acknowledge her, would she make eye contact.
Al liked to show up early, and wait for me on the front porch. He’d have tea, just the way I liked it, and always a gleam in his eye that said he was ready to talk. As I opened the store he would find a chair and patiently bide his time. It was a copy of Rumi’s book of poetry that kept bringing this young man back. Seeing it on display, he felt certain, was a sign. Al had been a prisoner of an invading regime in the country he grew up in. Tortured and humiliated, he credits his survival to verses of Rumi written on the walls of his cell. Having escaped persecution, Al studied world religions, and started to write his own poetry. His passion for life, his eagerness to learn, and his endless tales enriched my days.
These were just two of many characters who frequented my inner city bookstore.
Those years are far behind, and ironically, Ric and I are now the regulars at a local diner – as at home with the wait staff as we are with the menus.
There is a kind of comfort in the familiarity of regulars.
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