Thursday, February 18, 2010

Everywhere, books

She calls it juicing the fruit, says everyone should do it.
"But it's risky, isn't it?" I asked.
"Nothing's risky. Or everything is."
"Banned in the book of Deuteronomy."
"Probably."
"Certainly."
"Not in private."
"Here isn't private."
We were in the back of a bookshop: dusty dust-covers, sagging shelves, second-hand books about second-hand love or forbidden triangles. Everywhere, books; everywhere, shelves screening us from the door where the old man was drowsy in the afternoon heat. Apart from us and the old man the shop was empty.
"Do you know that poem by Cavafy?" she asked, "in the shop?"
"I know it," I said.
"And the one in the taverna?"
"A divine July was blazing."
"Yes," she said. "Yes."
"Public places."
"Private passions."
Cavafy, yes. The old man of Alexandria, the great poet of desire, the desire of minds mastered by the heat of the day and the heat of the flesh.
"I wonder if there's any Cavafy here?" I said.
"Don't change the subject," she said.
We weren't in the shop for more than forty minutes. At some point it began raining: fat, moist summer drops spattering the shop's windows and disturbing the dust of the quiet street outside.
When we left I asked the bookseller if he had anything by Cavafy. Either he didn't understand or else he misunderstood. If we wanted coffee, we could get it further down the road, he said.

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