I first met Will Leathem about twenty years ago when I filed a complaint against Prospero’s Books for being inaccessible to those of us who have physical challenges. Will responded by agreeing to make a computerized list of his inventory, which he might or might not have ever done. Instead, we became friends and he would fetch, carry, and call out titles from the foot of the stairs. Once he even carried me down the winding steps to the basement. On another occasion, he sent a strapping young lad to fetch me to the second floor for Mark Zorn’s poetry reading.
I’ve watched him morph from his straight-laced younger self to the kindest elfin soul ever imaginable. I’ve danced in his driveway and listened to his son reading aloud from a perch behind the register. I’ve argued Scandinavians versus British with him, both of us having a proclivity from time to time for a well-written mystery. I’ve set slim old volumes on his counter and listened to his tales of the authors as well as the acquisition of the book itself. His eyes dance and his mouth curves into a smile. His endless warmth blankets those around him.
He tells me that he’s angered some people. I discount his self-disparagement. I’ve seen him with his lady, Leslie; and her daughter; and with the slowest of customers. He demonstrates profound patience. I’ve read his own poems, and I’ve had his hand stretched out to mine when I stumbled.. I know this man. I don’t see him half enough, but every time I do, his arms encircle me. I know that our affection for one another persists. It will transcend my leaving; and it will await my every return. Parting from him, as with my other encounters this week, indeed evokes sweet sorrow. But I bid him only au revoir, not adieu. The words we exchanged today will not be our last. We did not say goodbye.
Fare thee well, my friend. Fare thee well.
It’s the tenth day of the forty-eighth month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.