White clouds

A man, his hands trembling and his pace slow, carries a bag with a Pentax, a floral black umbrella and a plastic bag full of books. He takes the stairs down from the fourth floor, bracing the rail and bracing the height. With each landing he pauses, browsing tables of books and thumbing the covers. A young bookseller bounds up “closing time,” she utters, her tone cheery despite the long shift. “Oh, you’re right, alright” he replies and makes his way to the next floor. More books are browsed as he takes his time before donning the flights.

On the ground floor he mutters an “oh” and gazes from side to side debating on which way he entered this grand kingdom of knowledge. People flock passed him, like water parting against a rock, not paying him any mind as he shuffles on, with his black slipper-like shoes sliding over the marble. He reaches the double doors that open to the street that is still jammed with cars at this hour, and takes a few steps backwards, retreating into the warmth. A tall bookseller blocks his return, his ash blond hair jutting out above the man’s sparse white cloud. Another “oh” is blurted as he shakily gazes over his shoulder with pale eyes before sliding to the side of the doors. His creased hands tremble as he sets down his load, opens the black camera bag with a back arched painfully low, and retrieves a crumpled hat and gloves. His fingers shake as he unfolds the furry knit with the low earflaps and places it over the cloud. Then they tremble even more as he draws black gloves over the vain marked hands with almost translucent skin. The seconds tick on as paces exit the store in the breaths it took for him to straighten up, but he does manage to and retrieves his precious cargo. With a gracious bow – a remnant from a century long since passed – and a hushed “thank you” he squeezes his eyes and braces himself for the cold assault. One shuffled step followed by another, he finds himself on the wet sidewalk, his small black floral umbrella still rolled neatly in the handle of his bag. He turns right and vanishes amongst the throngs making their way to and from Piccadilly station, and out of sight, melting into a relished memory.

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