‘If you want to be a writer, and a really good one at that, it is vital that you write from the heart. Otherwise, no matter how good of a liar you are, there will always be people who see through you. ’
‘Isn’t everybody a writer at heart?’
‘Some do not have the gift of successfully conveying their emotions into writing and some do not have any emotions to begin with! Take our Hades for example. Usually the first thing that comes to your mind when you picture a baker is somebody with a big moustache, chubby, an inviting, friendly demeanour, and certainly not named after the Greek god of the Underworld. Hades is the opposite, and quite frankly, he is living up to his name. ’
‘I think some people do not want to express their emotions, and thus we mistakenly assume they do not have any to begin with.’
‘Everyone except Hades. Baker of the Underworld.’
‘You judge too harshly.’
After my grandfather’s death I found work as an obituary writer at Gratia Cotidiana, the newspaper house. Pay was scanty but the relief of having something to look forward to, even if it was writing the last public mention that most of the deceased were to receive, was enough to get me out of my apartment every morning. I had managed to secure an apartment on the top most floor of a property. It was surprisingly cheaper than I had anticipated, but still took up almost all of the money I had. The property was very old, located in an older neighbourhood of Gratia, and the apartment itself was built suiting someone living a solitary life. It was the perfect find for me.
A routine settled in quickly. In the mornings, I grabbed fresh bread from the bakery on my way to the Cotidiana which I ate with tea on my desk. I worked all morning and afternoon at the Cotidiana. An obituary writer doesn’t always have work though, so I also spent time editing pieces for the some of the more overworked staff. The most interesting part of my day was the walk back home from work. My usual route was through the Square’s busy evening people-traffic. It mostly involved dodging vendors futilely trying to sell the day’s leftover produce. After crisscrossing the Square, I passed Vecors Park which cut into Fors alley, which directly opened towards my building. Vecors Park had an interesting history to it. It was the only area in the city among the hundred other alleys to have foliage in it. Apparently it belonged to one of the city’s earliest inhabitants called Vecors. He was a philosopher who also worked on the side as a painter. Folklore said one day Vecors noticed a child playing on the large garden of his house after which he decided to allow any child who wished, to utilize his park for their games. Around the age of 60 he began losing his memory and with that he also started accusing some of the other inhabitants of the then very small Gratia of hypocrisy. Now conflict between inhabitants has never been the most disconcerting issue in the city, but Vecors’s loud personality meant that everybody in the town heard him when he went around the streets cursing the people. He disappeared a little over a year after after his madness started. His body was never found, and soon after people forgot about him.
One day, I decided to stop at the library. Following the move from my grandfather’s house, now locked up, it had been a while since I had visited the library. To call it a library may be a disgrace to books. Welcome to Gratia’s library, housed in a rickety, two-story building. Some businesses in Gratia have bigger entrances. The library started out as self-run which meant that one was free to add to the collection- you would be surprised how fond of books Gratia was- and take as needed. This self-regulation idea did not last for very long as Gratia began to grow. After consistent periods of acute shortages of books, a registration rule was implemented to track that everything was returned. As a child, I always found it interesting that this matter was resolved so quickly and peacefully.
“Grandfather, it is as if the guardians of the library identified the problem, came up with a solution, and everything was sorted instantly!” I had remarked to him after my first visit to the library.
“Things are never as they seem. If I were you, I wouldn’t trust what Gratia’s history books say. Often, the truth is very different, and there is contempt which can come out in subtle ways. Now, what did you learn about Aquinas this week?”
I scanned the shelves for something to strike me, a book that stood out. After an hour of bending my neck reading the covers, I decided to employ a different method. Take a book out, read its title, put it back, move along quickly. I was almost done with the mythical stories section until I came across an unnamed book. I opened it to find a poem instead of a title:
To see the world in a grain of sand
And heaven in a wildflower…
It was one of my favourite phrases. Inside the book, there were more poems, collections and collections filled the first half of the book. No authors were identified but I recognised some- Keats, Blake, and Dickinson among others. There were many unfamiliar ones, but all had recurring themes- loss, grief, passion, confusion. The layout of the book was unorthodox, and the book itself had a distinct, old-book smell. The latter half of the book was completely blank. There was no information about the publisher. The book had a mahogany cover and a fading symbol in gold outline on the spine. I felt compelled to take it home. I was curious about the peculiar design and using my connections at my employment I could find out more about it. It was an outlandish idea and I didn’t realise at the time that the reason I felt so compelled to take the book with me was because its poems had in them questions I had always avoided asking myself.