I’m not good with goodbyes. When I finally quit my job at Borders years ago, it was without fanfare — mostly because I knew that I would sob like a child if someone extended kind words or rumpled me into a hug.
Our Borders — the sole bookstore in our town of more than 50,000 people, of the entire Southern Maryland area — opened in the ’90s to great excitement. My dad, a sportswriter, had the very first book signing in our Waldorf, Md., location. I have distinct memories of going there as a kid with my parents, paging through the store’s vast selection of CDs for the section labeled “HANSON” and chatting with others wandering the aisles.
I love the smell of books, wood and coffee. I love the chatter that erupts from the cafe at strange intervals, or the way groups of people mingle in the same space while exploring vastly different books. The magazine readers mix with the chai tea drinkers; the photography-book-lovers chat with the YA fans. We’re all here in the same place — a complicated tangle of community.
And Borders is our community bookstore. There are no independent bookstores here — and the only other book vendors? Target, Wal-Mart, Costco. We have a few secondhand bookstores in the area, but most are at least 40 minutes away and without new titles. The next-closest “new books” bookstore is Barnes & Noble in Annapolis, and I’ve always been a loyal Borders fan.
But our Borders is closing. All Borders stores are closing. Save a deal with Books-A-Million that would continue to operate 30 stores, including ours, Southern Maryland will have no bookstore.
I’ve already written extensively about my Borders memories, both as a customer and an employee. I made countless friends there, clocked countless hours there, bought countless books there. Knowing that our store will soon close opens a bottomless pit in my stomach, which has been sick since the news broke earlier this week. On my birthday.
I knew Borders was on borrowed time — for many, many reasons — but the cold, hard reality of the liquidation process is awful. I can’t imagine walking into that store with “Everything must go!” signage hanging from the balustrades where we once dangled streamers for Halloween events or the “Harry Potter” midnight release parties. I don’t want to see people picking clean the carcasses of the bookshelves, benches and tables where I whiled away so many hours. And later, when it’s all over, I don’t want to drive by the empty storefront.
I’m sending others out to do reconnaissance and maybe say a fond farewell for me to the store that once felt like home. But you won’t find me going through bins or stocking up on back titles or rummaging through shelving. I want to think of Borders the way it was. I want to think of my Borders the way it used to be.
I can’t say goodbye.