The Old Book

It was Alex’s day off and he had time to kill. On his days off, that was really the only kind of time he had. Most days, Alex would just read, watch movies, or binge watch The Office for the 83rd time. He mostly wanted to escape into some sort of entertainment that would help the seconds pass by until it was time for him to get back to work.

Not that Alex particularly looked forward to getting back to work. But he got paid to work. He didn’t get paid to laugh at Jim’s pranks on Dwight. Again.

On that specific day off and during that specific time kill spree, Alex found his way into a used bookstore. He wasn’t really looking for anything. He just always loved stepping into a bookstore whenever he had the chance. Alex was one of those guys who liked stories and he loved the stories that older books could tell.

Sure, there was a good chance that whatever he found in this store would be just as good as a copy he could find at Barnes & Noble. But with used books, there was always a chance that he could find notes in the margins from previous readers. He found that to be fascinating.

And although he knew it wasn’t true, Alex almost felt as though an older book had a closer connection to the author. As if, by holding on to those antique texts, you can obtain a clearer meaning of the writer’s intentions. At least, that’s what he liked to believe.

Most of the used bookstores that Alex had visited over the years didn’t carry anything out of the ordinary. Most of what Alex had a tendency to find were books that were no more than ten years old that might have dog-eared pages or slightly torn dust jackets.

He found himself walking down the aisle designated MYSTERIES, glossing over dozens of innocuous novels. But something caught his eye. It was something that didn’t quite belong. On the top shelf, Alex spotted an old, leather-bound book that was out of place among the hardcover whodunits.

Curiosity grabbed hold of him and he couldn’t help but reach up and grab hold of that book. Immediately, Alex noticed that the thing had no title. Nothing on the cover. Nothing on the spine. From what he could tell, it was just a plain old book. It didn’t glow. He certainly didn’t open it up and get whisked away to some fantastic, far away land. But he did open it…

Upon flipping through the first few pages, Alex noticed the smell. It was that same smell he had only experienced whenever he explored his grandparents’ attic as a kid. A strange mixture of cedar and moth balls and ancient dust. In a way, it was as if he had been transported back to a place he knew but had not experienced for many years.

The first few pages of the book were blank. There was no copyright, no authorship, and still no title to speak of. Then Alex came across the handwritten words that shook him to the core.

My Son,

I can never fully express how deeply sorry I am. I can never expect you to forgive me either. I’ve made many mistakes in the span of my life, but I’ve always done everything with your best interests at heart. My only true regret is that I haven’t tried to contact you sooner.

I’m fighting a losing battle now, but I couldn’t quit this fight until I let you know, somehow, just how much I love you. In spite of everything, I have always considered you the greatest blessing in my life. I guess a boy just needs his mother.

The pages in this book contain the story of our lives, your mother’s and mine. I hope that you’ll read them and find it in your heart to forgive me, even if it’s long after I’ve gone. Goodbye, son.

Before he could realize what was happening, Alex noticed a tear hit the page he was reading. He could only assume the letter was written from an ailing father to his estranged son. He wasn’t quite sure why that one page had touched him as deeply as it had. Perhaps, in that moment, Alex was missing his own father, wishing he had one more chance to tell him he loved him.

It didn’t seem like this book would be a mystery, but Alex was intrigued nonetheless. He wanted desperately to find out about the man who wrote that letter. What choices had he made that caused his son to be so far away from him? Had something happened to the boy’s mother? Had the boy blamed his father?

The book had no price marked on it. Alex took it to the register and was able to purchase it for only five dollars. He figured a true story about these real lives would be well worth that small price.

Feature Photo by Sergiu Vălenaș on Unsplash

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