She stopped inside the door. Her internal compass spun. The room was dark except for light punching through the windows along either wall. Rows of books obscured those on the far left, but the right side spotlighted overstuffed armchairs and tufted sofas socially arranged over Persian carpets. Toward the darker side, a lamp pooled bright light beside an attendant sitting at a desk. He looked up from his computer. His dark hair was dusted grey at the temples, but his eyes were unlined. “May I help you?”
She swallowed the hard lump in her throat. “Yes,” hung softly in the air. “I’m looking for an idea.”
The man’s face puckered. “Any in particular?”
She steadied herself. “Well, no, maybe, you see, actually,” she stopped. Her thoughts clouded. Her words swirled. Tears threatened a storm.
“That’s o.k.,” the man rose above her. “Ever been here before?”
Her heart leapt in her chest. “Once, when I was 11.”
He nodded. “And?”
“I got lost.”
“I see,” he cocked his head. “And you think this time will be different?”
She nodded slowly.
He raised one eyebrow.
“Yes, I had this dream. I was running through a dark forest and…”
The man held up one hand.
“But when I woke up, I knew I could…”
“But in my dream…”
He pointed toward the obscured wall. “They’re over there.”
Countless rows flanked her right side. “Are they categorized?” She graced him with a shy smile.
He shook his head.
“Alphabetical order?” She bit her bottom lip.
“Color co-ordinated?” Her chin wobbled.
“Sorry.” The man sat down in front of his computer screen. “You’ll have to pillage through them.”
Dust motes danced in the light that stretched from the windowed wall to the toes of her loafers. “About how many are there?” she whispered.
His smile opened then slammed closed. “You don’t want to know.”
She clenched her hands at her sides, straightened her shoulders and set her mouth firmly. “In my dream…”
“You better get started.” The screen lit his face.
“But where?” The rows were dark fingers stretching toward the back of the room.
“It doesn’t matter,” he sighed.
“What if I get lost?” her stomach fluttered.
“There are worse things,” he mumbled.
“But, what if…”
“Listen,” his eyes held her. “Start at the beginning, in the middle or at the end. Jump around or go in order. There isn’t any right way. If you get lost, sit down. After a minute, you’ll get your bearings. Retrace your steps. I’ll be right here.”
“When do you close?”
His eyes reflected the computer screen. “We don’t.”
She turned toward the rows. “Ever?”
“So I can always come right back here?” Her heart thrummed.
“Always.” The word settled on the her. “O.K.” She relaxed her shoulders and unclenched her fists. “Then I’ll start on the second row.”
“Excellent,” the man reported to the screen. “Good luck.”
“Thank you,” she said and stepped onto the light.