I was there when they opened the one on the Magnificent Mile, right across from the Water Tower. I remember big. I remember shiny. I remember balloons.
And I remember books.
Lots and lots of books. There had never been a bookstore with so many books. And this was during my roaming around downtown Chicago days, so I had been to many bookstores. Borders was different. Borders had levels.
I remember the next Borders I went to. It was right off Clark and Diversey. I remember taking the bus there and staying there, reading and wandering the aisles, until the sun went down and I realized I had missed the 6:00 train back to the suburbs, and the next one wouldn’t come until 9:30pm, which meant I had three more hours to wander around the bookstore.
Almost missed that train, too. Almost.
I remember when they opened a Borders in Matteson, a good seven or eight years after I left it for good, and I thought, if I ever become a famous writer, I can hold a reading there, and I will be the first ever black fantasy female writer, and all my family would come. And I made plans. But I wasn’t writing back then, so at the time, it was moot.
I remember when Daniel was born, and by then, Borders were everywhere, but not in the suburb I was in. You had to drive twenty minutes north to the one in Schaumburg, right next to the mall, or thirty-five minutes east to Oakbrook, near the mall there too. Or 45 minutes to Wheaton, right off Butterfield Drive. That one was comparatively smaller than the others.
When Jon and I were able to get away on the rare occasion for a date, we always went to that last Borders. Always. Because we could never think of anything else to do. We didn’t want to sit next to each other saying nothing at a movie. No restaurant we wanted to go to stayed open after 8pm. And sometimes, the Border’s had people singing in the cafe. It was the furthest away from the poetry slams and the celebrity signing hoopla and three-storied levels (four if you count the basement) that the Michigan Ave bookstore offered, and it was also the closest.
When I began writing professionally, I met with a writer’s group at a nearby Barnes and Nobles.
Now, when I drive down Midvale and the empty Borders looms in front of me, I feel sort of sad, but not really. I suppose I’m one of the millions who took it for granted that it would always be there. It was there when we moved to Madison. And when we drove around, seeing the sights, I had spotted it and thought, cool. And my hubby and I continued to have dates there. But there were other places to go. Other things to do. Actual places that we could actually go on a date. And let’s face it, if I’m going to buy a book, well, there’s this cool bookstore near downtown, where I know people and I could chat to them and they have the coolest readings.
So I look at the empty building. I feel sort of sad. Then the light changes and I turn the wheel, and I drive off in another direction, leaving the empty store behind. Just like everyone else.