17 October, 2010

A Shakespearean Tragedy Under Waterloo Bridge

A prose poem I wrote a few weeks ago in my Creative Writing class, it's about an open-air used book market under a bridge in London. It was right next to the National Theatre, and whenever I went to see a show for class, I always stopped by and pored over the rows of tables, full of old books. Old books are my favorites, because I feel like they tell a story that's not written in the pages.

A Shakespearean Tragedy Under Waterloo Bridge

The thick, leatherbound cover is scuffed in places, and a long diagonal rip along the spine cuts William Shakespeare's name neatly into two halves, like the peanut butter and banana sandwiches I ate for lunch when I was a kid. The gold gilded edges of the pages have faded in places, and when opened the book lets off an earthy, musky smell, like wet dust or an old shirt that's been hiding in the corner of a damp basement for a year. Inside, the tissue-thin pages are speckled with mildew, creating unsightly freckles on the illustrations of Juliet, and chicken pox on the handsome royal visage of Oberon. I spot a muddy brown stain on a page near the middle, and idly wonder if it might be blood, if this book has borne witness to crime or adventure. The thought excites me for a moment, and only the accidental nudge of another customer, the polite, accented "sorry," breaks me from my reverie. The stain is likely just dirt, or perhaps tea. The book has not seen adventure or excitement; likely it hasn't seen anything other than the bottom of a closet or the inside of a trunk in decades. Still, I love old books, and this one is amazing. I look at the small, handwritten £10 on the inside front cover, and dig around in my pockets for a moment. I find a few receipts from Waterstone's and Tesco, a crumpled £5 note, and a few coins, both American and British. With a sigh, I place the book back on the table and venture out from under the safety of the bridge into the cold rain. The next day, before class, I hop on the tube, hurriedly weaving myself between the bundled bodies, and all but run to the market. £10 note in hand, I approach the table and search anxiously for the collection of Shakespeare comedies I found yesterday. But it's gone, taken, sold. It's having its grand adventures... without me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh, I love this! I completely understand the feeling and wrote you a comment here yesterday which must have gotten lost! Well, I also linked to this post today... Thank you! xo, a.