The sun reflected off of a silver bike as it whizzed past the stopped cars at an intersection. The heat was unbearable today, Chelsea could feel the hot air pushing against her skin as she rode on the side walk, against traffic. The heat was no longer uncomfortable and sweat provoking but now actually hurt. It reminded her of grabbing the metal of her curling iron earlier that morning, except the burning sensation covered her entire body. With summer heat comes the blaring sound of cicadas. When she went under a tree she’d hear them over the honking cars. Their noise vibrating through her, consuming her. Once she rode out from under a tree, a feeling of relief would wash over, that deafening, continuous sound could make a person go mad. But then as soon as she was out from one tree she’d be nearing another. The fading cicadas would then be replaced with the new roaring ones, seemingly even louder than the last tree.
After about ten minutes of the torturous cycle of biking there, she unhooked her basket towering with books, thankful that it hadn’t toppled over on the way. She lugged it to the counter on the side of the book store. The man behind the counter didn’t acknowledge her once she walked up, so Chelsea stood there for a few uncomfortable seconds waiting for him to say something.
“Hi, hello, you’re looking about an hour wait,” he said sounding rushed while motioning towards three other large bags of books,” you’re welcome to drop them off and leave, just as long as you fill out this card.” He handed her a bright blue piece of paper and a pen.
“Oh okay, thanks.” She looked at the card. The girl wrote down the time, date, and her name. When she was finished, she reexamined the card, to make sure there were no mistakes, and noticed each word looked like it was written in a different font. Her first name in cursive, her last in large, spaced letters, the date in tall, squished ones, and the time slanted. She didn’t think much of it, gave it to the man and decided to walk around the book store while she waited.
Chelsea walked into the nearest book section. She saw the label on the shelf that said poetry, then grabbed a random book. She read a few poems and thought to herself about how she enjoyed the cadence, but thought the consonance was overdone. The fair skinned girl scratched at her shoulder, which had a tattoo that said “I am, I am, I am,” a quote from Sylvia Plath. She put the book back on the shelf then remembered to check her phone. She refreshed her email a couple of times, disappointed that there was still no news about the poem she was trying to get published. Feeling empty, Chelsea walked into another aisle.
She was in the religion and spirituality section. The girl sat down and crossed her legs, a position she was comfortable in from eating so many dinners like that, next to a very short table. She began reading a book on Hinduism and smiled at the thought of Shiva, the greatest god she knew. It was very quiet and no one was around, so she took the opportunity to meditate. Chelsea thought of nothing and felt nothing. After what seemed like a while, she got up, returned the book to its shelf and walked towards the next bookcase.
Chelsea was in the romance section, she picked up a book and took a few steps back, intending to rest back on the wall as she read, but instead walked into the man behind her.
“I’m so sorry, didn’t see you there,” she said as a smile grew on her face while noticing the attractiveness of the man she backed into.
“oh, no worries,” he said with a chuckle in his tone, which made her giggle. They were still uncomfortably close. Once the laughter stopped they stood there, saying nothing, for what felt like an eternity. Chelsea became aware of her accelerating heart rate and the rush of adrenaline streaming through her, while looking into the sparkle in his eye. She started to lean in, expecting the most sensuous kiss of her life. Instead of the start of a great love affair, he leaned back and turned his head.
“sorry” he mumbled still avoiding eye contact. She, being now completely embarrassed and more filled with self-hatred than emptiness, stumbled to the farthest aisle she could find.
The defeated girl found herself in the biography section and felt very uneasy. She rarely visited this area, so she walked into another. A grin came across her face as she saw the words “Essays and Writing on Writing” labeled on the display in front of her. She pulled out a book about finishing good stories along with one of David Foster Wallace’s. She sat there, alternating between both, figuring it’d help her get inspiration to write the ending of her novel.
After a while she felt a wave of boredom come over her. Chelsea stood back up and sauntered down to the next aisle. She inspected the sign and it said “True Crime and Mystery.” The girl grasped a book about Charles Manson and pulled it out slowly. She scoffed about what a big deal was made of him. He, himself, only killed one person. Calling him a serial killer is pretty ridiculous, all he did was give some light drugs to kids and had them try to help him with his music career. The people that died because of him were a substantially low body count, it was all media hype. She shook her head and put the book back on the shelf. Hearing footsteps behind her, Chelsea turned around and saw the man she tried to kiss earlier.
“Hey, I just wanted to sa—“ he couldn’t finish his sentence because her hands were suddenly around his neck. She was so small, so it wasn’t difficult to shake her off then fling her away from him. “I was just trying to apologize to you. Crazy bitch.”
Chelsea found herself mortified, on the floor with her body aching from such a hard fall. He threw her all the way to a whole other section. She stood back up and saw that she was next to the “Psychology and Self Help” bookcase. The tired girl sighed and let herself fall back to the floor with a quiet thud. She yanked a book out from the shelf called “Living with Chronic Emptiness.” After reading a couple pages she closed her eyes and thought about going back to the hospital after this. How she had a nice day out, got to exchange some books and talk to people for a little while.
The girl started to doze off when her phone buzzed. It said that it had been an hour since she dropped off the books, so slowly standing up, she traipsed back over to the counter.
“Hi, your books are done. You have 37.58 dollars in store credit now,” the clerk said while handing her back the bike basket.
“Thank you,” Chelsea realized she didn’t choose any books to buy. Instead she went to the front of the store and saw a fancily decorated box and bought that. She knew she already had too many boxes like this at home, and could never find anything to put in them, but bought it anyway. She liked how it looked, and decided it didn’t matter if it was empty, the idea of it was good enough. Chelsea hopped on her bike and peddled into the sweltering heat, feeling it push against her face. The aimless girl listened to the thunderous sound of cicadas coming and going as she rode on.
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