I enter Barnes and Noble with my sweetheart feeling happy. Bookstores are good.

"I know you're headed for the bargain section. I'm going to pass through magazines, then look for the books on my list, and then I'll meet you there. Love you."

"Okay, love you," she says as I wonder off.

I float past the boating, automobile, and muscle magzines, then pause to look at the covers of the Men's magazines. Those are definitely not natural. I continue on down the racks, faster through the wedding and home area, slower past the computer and cinema section. Have you ever noticed how the Women's and Fashion mags show just as much flesh as the Men's (sometimes more) but they do it with more varied clothing and more tasteful makeup? I guess sex sells.

I stop and leaf through Premier, which has a scantily clad Christina Ricci on the cover. I read bits of the articles, but none of them catch my interest.

Eventually, I escape the avalanche of eyes and skin, color and flash, type faces and clever names, teeth and TMI. My eyes have started to glaze over. I stubble from the minature canyons of attention grabbers, into a cavern of even more of them. How will ever find anything in this mess, let alone a single book I want to read?

The list in my pocket now forgotten, I scurry along the tiled path towards bargain books. Lucky, I know this store pretty well, so I can get there with minimal glaces at my surroundings. The book covers jump out at me, but I side step their titles and let their colors wash over me like water. I ride the flood past row upon row, past Self-help, past Business, past Classics, past Cookbooks, into bargains. I keep moving, looking for one color combination in particular. Six feet tall, blond with olive green coat on top of black pants. Finally, I see it and turn down the aisle.


"Hey, I found two cookbooks and a hardback Garrison Keillor."

"Oh, good. ... Look, can we go now?"

"... Sure. Uh, everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm just not feeling so great. You go ahead and get those, I'll meet you outside at the car."

"Okay." She sounds concerned but I can't see if she looks it. I'm fleeing as fast as I can without running.

So many people, so much noise. They keep getting in my way. I can't get out. I can see the doors. Now I'm through them, but I'm still not out. Another set of doors, and now the cold night air hits my face and stings my throat as I breath deep. I tilt my head back and look up at the night sky. So many stars. For a moment I'm afraid, but then I realize they want nothing from me.