I've passed it a million times but never went inside.
Today the narrow staircase called out, and I decided to check it out.
The lighting was lovely in there.
And the smell of paper was thick and pungent.
Shelves and shelves of colourfully bound treasures.
Sectioned off by genre.
In the front window, in a nook, were three men deep in discussion.
They were spiritedly discussing an artist friend of theirs who had sold a painting only to discover that it had been altered by another painter and then covered with an entirely new painting altogether.
They argued upon the rights of artists.
I tried not to eavesdrop, but their voices were so distinct.
I shuffled some books, and peeked through the shelves to get a look at them.
To match voices and points with appearance.
They sat close around a small table, drinking beer in glasses.
It felt like a scene in a Woody Allen movie.
I accidentally made eye contact with one of them, who smiled and left his seat to greet me.
“Mademoiselle, can I help you find anything?”
His accent was hard to place. French? English? South African?
“Oh, thanks, no. It’s my first time here. Just familiarizing myself with your sections.”
He pointed to the book in my hand.
“Ah, I see you are eyeing Katharine Hepburn’s biography. I read it. It is very, very good. She is an amazing woman. Very witty.”
“Yeah, I love her. I love biographies. I think I’m going to buy it."
"Can you show me where your classics are? Or have you any Mark Twain, by chance?”
“Yes, I do. They don’t sell so well here. I put it on the front table outside and - no interest.”
He left me for a second and then handed me some Twain books.
Then he motioned for me to follow him, and cleared a chair in the corner for me to sit.
“Here you go. You read here. You choose here. What is your name?”
“It is nice to meet you, Tanya. I am Gilles. Please, sit down. I will make you a good price.”
“Nice to meet you, Gilles. I really like your shop.”
“Thank you. My shop likes you too.”
He smiled and returned to his guests and the conversation that switched from Parisian French to English.
I closed my eyes, listened to their accents, and the jazz music playing form a radio above their heads.
Then I cracked open Twain’s A Tramp Abroad and smiled instantly as I read the first paragraph.