I've just stepped out of Powell's City of Books, the famous gigantic bookstore in the center of Portland. The rooms are colour-coded — orange for business, blue for literature, gold for sci-fi. The colours give the place a theme-park-like feel; walking from one room to another is a little like switching planets. The red room alone is big enough to be a bookstore in itself. I could lose myself in there for days. I want to go back.
While i was wandering through the shelves, i came across The Time Traveler's Wife and couldn't resist. ("Sounds confusing," the store employee offered cheerfully.) So i'm carrying it and two other books and my leftover bread from the Lebanese restaurant where we had dinner as i walk the five blocks south along the streetcar tracks to the train stop. The sign says i have 17 minutes to wait. Good. That means i can start.
There's just one bench. It's covered in scattered newspapers, but i'm too eager to put down my things and start reading, so i don't bother to clear them away. I open the book to the first page and begin. It's hard being left behind...
As i'm reading i become aware of the smell of cigarette smoke. It's wafting over from my right, where a man has sat down on the other end of the bench. I was sufficiently wrapped up in the novel that i didn't notice him lighting up. He looks cold. He's wearing a thick red coat and a dark green toque and he's staring at the ground. I briefly consider moving elsewhere, dismiss the thought, and return to my book. A few pages pass. It's a love story about a papermaker and a librarian. Then, suddenly:
"Never fall in love," says the stranger.
I look up at him, a thousand thoughts on my mind. "Too late," i reply.