I know it's not entirely fashionable to discuss Big Box Stores on writerly blogs, unless it's to be happy that a book is carried there or upset if it's not, but where I live, the nearest independent bookstore is in Philadelphia (Joseph Fox Bookshop, to be precise), which requires a drive and tolls and paid parking, so I don't go there terribly often. The nearest independent children's book store is Children's Book World in Haverford, which is a longer drive plus a toll, although at least the parking is free. But there are three Barnes & Nobles within 10 minutes of my house, along with a Borders store.
And it is to that Borders store that I go nearly every Thursday morning and every Friday afternoon to meet Angela De Groot for writing time. We've been going there for years now. We know all the book sellers. We know all the baristas. We are acquainted with quite a few of our fellow patrons, as well. People we are used to seeing. People who have, on occasion, held our favorite table for us because they knew we were coming. (Our favorite table is near an outlet, and outlets aren't always easy to come by.)
I've known for weeks that the store is closing, but today it felt more real than usual. Because when that store closes, we won't only be losing a place to sit, we will be losing a small community. We may not know the names of all our fellow patrons, but we recognize many of the regulars and are used to exchanging pleasantries. Will we see them again? Maybe, maybe not. It's all very sad. What if we don't see the kindly man who comes in to read his newspaper anymore? Or the lovely lady who nurses her iced tea for hours and reads with her nose almost pressed to the page? Or the nice man who always stops to enquire about our writing? Or the very old Holocaust survivor who hits on Angela? Or the lovely woman who was recently widowed, who comes in to find people with whom she can talk? (At least we have her email address, but still.)
Somehow I became "regular" there without realizing that's what was happening. And now I'm suffering the consequences of what happens when a place at which you were a regular goes dark. And I don't regret a moment of it, but I am a bit saddened by it. And now, I am going to pack up and head to my dwindling Borders for an unusual Tuesday afternoon session. (Angela's parents are visiting, so we'll leave them in peace in her house - by which I mean, we will go to Borders so her dad can watch TV!)