I’d had a trip to a bookstore planned, and John suddenly decided he wanted to accompany me. In the old days I would have been thrilled. A little trip out could have wound up in a surprise intimate dinner, a hike up a little secluded ridge, almost anything. But this request made my chest feel tight. To heck with it. I shook it off. It was a good sign that John wanted to get away from the house for a bit. Maybe we were edging a little closer to normal normal.
We made it to the store incident free. All right, I thought. This is good. This is sweet. John’s movements weren’t exactly fluid (he’d had some trouble getting into the car), but he was good enough for a bookstore. I stayed alongside him, though, not freewheeling through the place as I once would have. John suddenly stopped in front of one particular section sign. He looked at it for a moment or two, then back to me.“What is fiction?” he asked, genuinely puzzled. “What does that mean?”I felt the question register in my eyes, in the muscles of my face. “Fiction is stories, hon. Not actual stories, but made up.”He held a book of fiction (to this day I think I refuse to remember the author or title) in his hand and looked at it like it was some arcane object. Eventually, I took it from him and placed it back on the shelf. I didn’t realize he was looking at my face the entire time.He said, “I’m sorry you’re sad.”And, of course, I was. I could tell by the expression on his face that he could pair that emotion with the look on my face, but didn’t really know what it meant, and couldn’t feel that sensation himself.I’m never surprised that I learn a thing or two in a bookstore. But this time it was learned not by words read in a book, but by two faces being read by two now very different people.