An older gentleman asked me if we had literature in French. I said, we do but it’s in the very back of the store, follow me and I’ll show you where. It’s a bit embarrassing taking someone back there as they invariably laugh ‘You weren’t kidding, it is the very back of the store!’
He was looking for Francoise Sagan’s: Bonjour Tristesse. I apologized that the books were vaguely in order. As he looked on one shelf I stooped down and started digging through the first box; lacking confidence that we would find it. I picked a pile of books off the second box and my eyes focused on the purple & white lettering. I chirped, grasping the book ‘I found it!’ I handed it to him and he immediately turned to the Paul Eluard poem at the beginning of the novel and read it aloud.
I stood transfixed. My French is poor but the way the words softly spilled from his lips I understood why the cliche of young women falling in love with older Parisian men exists. He wasn’t reading for me. He needed to hear the words for himself and when he was done he quietly sighed ‘Perfect.’
He expressed how grateful he was I’d found it for him. We lamented the closing of bookstores of late and the loss of a great shop in the city that use to specialize in languages other than English. Personally, I would visit it for their excellent graphic novel section. He stopped to share the prize with his wife. I surreptitiously took this picture before they bought it and left.
You are inscribed in the lines on the ceiling
You are inscribed in the eyes that I love
You are not poverty absolutely
Since the poorest of lips denounce you
Ah with a smile
Love of kind bodies
Power of love
From which kindness rises
Like a bodiless monster
Sadness beautiful face