I found him on the bookstore’s notice board.
The New Yorker (1959-2010). Mint Condition. Price Negotiable.
He sat between the Freelance Copywriter and Babysitter (Prices fixed by hour). I jotted down the phone number. I was broke. I had nothing to negotiate with. But maybe I could browse through the stack and find one or two copies.
I met him at the coffee shop not far from the store. His glasses were smudged and his voice was filled with cigars. He looked like an Indian Hemingway.
“Why are you selling them? How can you let them go?”
“My wife hates them. She says my junk takes up too much space. I’d rather give them to someone who cares, than let her have the satisfaction of throwing them out.”
“She doesn’t read?”
“She used to. Now she says she is too old.”
“Too old to read? Tell me there’s no such thing.”
“There’s no such thing,” he replies with a smile. It’s wide and almost boyish. “Why do you want them? What will you do with them?” he continues. His smile goes away and his eyes say more than his words.
“Me? I’ll read them over and over, till the pages turn yellow. I’ll memorize every page, every cover design. I’ll stack them on the floor by my bed. I’ll sleep next to and wake up with yellowing stories every day.”
“Every day till someone tells you to get rid of your junk.” His voice isn’t bitter.
“I don’t have a lot of money Sir. I can only pick a few copies.”
“Listen,” his voice is quiet, it is water hitting ice, “these aren’t for sale.” He raises the coffee cup with his left hand and takes a sip, but his eyes remain locked on me. I try not to look too disappointed, but I can’t hide my surprise when he asks, “Where do I send them?”
I still have every single copy. The pages aren’t yellow yet. No one has asked me to throw them out either, though a friend tried to buy a few issues from me. “Listen,” I told him, the taste of rich, hand rolled cigar replaced my cheap corner-store cigarette, “these aren’t for sale.”