I’ve lived in many places, but I want to stay forever at the Falling Action Café.
A little bell tinkles when customers trail in, and the owner, Frieda, beams every time. She helps them find that unknown book they long for: a Victorian romance with overtones of forbidden pleasure, an action adventure with a clever detective at the heart of it all, or rough-and-tumble splatterpunk with solar-powered rollerblades and neon dreams.
For our part, we love being discovered. Frieda matches us with the perfect reader, that one who holds us with interest and turns our pages with excitement. Sometimes, that person comes back to read us again, and again — for, of course, they can’t take us out of the café.
We call these people “enthusiasts.” I have five.
The first hundred or so times someone held me in the Falling Action, my binding cringed and pulled away. Before Frieda found me, my owner had left me out in the rain in the yard, and I couldn’t help but think that these people would take me out of the store and leave me as well. One time, one of the enthusiasts offered to buy me, and all my pages shook.
Frieda refused outright. “This isn’t a bookstore,” she told the enthusiast. “This is a bookrest.”
I relaxed after that. I stopped tensing up when new people picked me up and carried me around.
Besides Frieda’s recommendations, the customers come here for the hidden nooks. That’s what the Falling Action is all about, Frieda says. Getting away. Decompressing. Traveling to other worlds without the stress of plane tickets and packed bags. Just the pure, undiluted feeling of Being Somewhere Else. The bookshelves stretch almost to the ceilings and they stop in unexpected places.
A cozy alcove bench. Upstairs, with the overlook and the octagon window. Through an archway where the rocking chair waits, with the little stand to set a mug down.
Stacks of us also line the little places between one bookshelf and the next to save space. Frieda knows everyone’s location, even tucked at the bottom of a stack. She knows us.
If customers want to nibble on a stroopwafel and dunk it in some cocoa, we have those things, too. Frieda just cautions them to not stain our pages. That makes us happy, that trust she has, and we all try to protect it. If a non-book-lover wanders in, they leave within a few minutes. Our smell of paper and ink, and the lost, meandering effect we create tends to clash with those who don’t care that they left crumbs as uncomfortable bookmarks.
For their part, the customers say that they feel transported. Each person, after all, exists as a kind of setting, a location, a place in the world. I can understand that. I love being taken out and held in different hands. Oh, I love it when their eyes widen, and when they make that little gasp on page 37! That’s when I know I’ve gained another enthusiast.
But the best thing about the Falling Action Café remains Frieda, herself. She’s read me on Friday nights, late, in the alcove with the bench. She’s held me with more tenderness than I’ve known since my author created me. She took the time to press my rain-damaged, wrinkled pages down, smoothing out the worst of my warped shape. She sewed part of my binding that had come loose. She gave me a home, instead of selling me to someone who could have hurt me again.
Every one of my fellows reports the same. Frieda’s an enthusiast for all of us, as impossible as it seems. Whether we were scorched in fires, or had pages ripped out or eaten by insects, for each of us, she did what she could.
I’ve come to understand that this place is not made for the humans who come in, but for us books. I wonder, sometimes, if this café is what heaven might give to the ascended printed page.