It is the second day of Aug, where did July go, Z does not know. Clenching a warm tea mug in her hand and keeping it close to her chest, she is trying to breathe. For some reason, since she woke up this morning, she has been feeling uneasy. Knowing the power of the chai on her, she makes it to soothe herself. Sitting on her bed, everything else is quiet except the murmur of the AC.
Still trying to breathe normally, she picks up her latest reading, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book, Z picked up in an interesting way. Last month, she was summoned for Jury Duty and since the court is on Canal St, she would walk home every single day to explore the city she loves most. Walking in her heels, she chooses a different route most days. In her second week of coming home from court, she decides to go shopping for her family since her mom’s birthday was coming and she felt generous to shop for everyone. Not knowing which streets are ahead but knowing only the direction towards home, Z turns on Prince St. from Lafayette St. Reading the word “books”, she crosses the street and goes inside the store. Unknowingly she ends up at a famous bookstore that she has been meaning to visit since a few years back, McNally Jackson in SoHo. This feels like home to her. She goes towards the architecture section, browsing through books by Rem Koolhaus and Renzo Piano, when she finds a photo journal on Seoul. Z wants to travel everywhere but Seoul from South Korea is one of the top cities in her bucket list. She picks up the book and is perusing it when she looks up to the sound of the door and she feels the faint breeze touch her skin.
Z looks up to find a famous Bollywood actor, Aditya Roy Kapur, walk in. Her eyes open a little wider but she quickly gets them back to normal, but in that moment, she and the actor make eye contact. Z has a feeling that he noticed her reaction and he knew that she knows him. Z isn’t a fan girl type of a person, she has her celebrity crushes but she isn’t the one running after them to take selfies. She resumes to act like nothing happened and the actor walks to a different section of books with a friend. Z can hear his voice; his Indian accent is distinguishable to her from across the room.
Immediately texting one of her best friend, D, to let her know that she saw one of her favorite actor; D suggests everything that Z does not want to do: take a selfie with him and tell him she loves his movies.
Ignoring the idea, Z continues to explore the bookstore to find books from countries like Italy, France, Russia, etc. Z was in love. Moving to the basement level, she is drawn towards the psychoanalytic section when the actor comes and stands right next to her and they again have an eye contact but this time for a longer period. Z felt like she should talk to him about something but before she could say anything, his friend calls him and so Z taking back the idea, goes to another area.
Standing on one of the landings of the stairs, Z finds the book, All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. There is a golden circle on the cover stating that it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel; Z’s eyes gleam to that phrase. Wanting to explore different writing styles and read a powerful novel she turns the book around to find out what the book was about. Based in Paris and Germany during the era just before WWII, the story revolves around the lives of two children from different countries and how they meet against all odds after losing so many that they love.
Engrossed just by the description on the back, Z doesn’t even realize when the actor walks up the stairs and walks past her. They share another eye contact before he goes to the café and Z to the checkout counter. She was not planning on spending more that day. Her aim when she opened the first door of the store was to just experience the bookstore.
Without realizing that she bought the book, she walks out to the calming breeze and puts on her headphones. The music takes control and her feet start to move, almost in harmony with the beat. She looks inside the glass window to see the actor one last time, but does not find him. Without feeling regret, Z walks towards home.