I like to think that at one point in life we were all teenage Asian girls living in suburbia with nothing to do on a Friday night.
Well, maybe not exactly that, but we at least whiled away our hours at the local bookstore as our friends and everyone we knew went out to the movies or to a party or recycled glass bottles for five cents each — fine that last suggestion is actually conjecture because I have no idea what those other kids were doing. I was in Borders.
I had a good rapport with the workers at my Borders, probably because I was that weird girl who sat in the children’s section, reading YA novels and counting her change out on the solar system printed rug. My pocket money babysitting went straight to buying YA books — Megan McCafferty’s Sloppy First series actually.
Then it slowly became this Friday night tradition. Pamela and I would drive to Borders, no book or plan in mind, and we would just look over the shelves and drink coffee and sit on the benches and talk about our days. I’d write up sections or authors and titles in a small notebook I carried in my purse and Pamela would drag me to the history section, the low shelves of romance novels, or the religious studies area tucked in the corner in the back.
Harry Potter nights — and I’m proud to say that I was a part of those — were an ordeal, half because we had to hide from younger kids by sitting in the romance aisle, and half because we felt like our place was taken over by interlopers. Loud interlopers. Loud interlopers with black robes.
Okay, so it’s all very silly, because one it was a chain bookstore. Liking a chain bookstore is silly because one Borders is as good as any other, right? But that was also helpful because when Pam and I got lost, we’d just sit around Borders and drink coffee and find the Austens and flip through mangas. We’d have those monthly coupons, which Barnes and Noble never does, and ordering a book that wasn’t in store was always easy.
Borders was the place I started to look at books as a little more of a viable career. (Okay, so fine, I applied to Borders, but who hasn’t?) I also started paying more attention to publishing, editors in the acknowledgements, actual book bindings, Bestseller Lists, trends in titles.
Borders was a magical place. I even miss having Borders hooked up to Amazon, because it was just downright comforting.
I’m waxing nostalgia over Borders right now for two reasons.
First, going to Borders was like putting a pause on things. Yes, it was ultimate procrastination because I could just walk through the entire store and touch spines and admire bindings and take notes on publishing houses. It felt productive, even if I was just having pipe dreams.
Second, Borders and its closings was that big of a middle finger to my writing dreams, and as someone who is currently on the bring of is she or isn’t she employed, I’m feeling all sorts of angry and nostalgic.
“Where are the Circuit Cities?” my creative writing professor used to pose when the entire ebook debate came up.
None of us had a response, which is the correct response, but we probably were also struck as we felt our writerly futures in peril.