These arms of mine, they are yearning, yearning…
What do you feel when you hear these words, this song?
I think I finally began to understand the depth of meaning of “yearning”, in the year I fell in love with old Abraham.
Abraham was the proprietor of a book shop in a college town, located just a few blocks from campus. The facade was a simple window, trimmed in black woodwork. The word “Abrahams” shone in a simple arc of gold lettering on the glass. Upon entering the shop, no doorbells or whistles would sound off. No robotic disinterested voice repeating “welcome to Abraham’s”.
Barely three feet to the left of the entry door, stood a counter which barely supported a cash register and a chessboard. On this side of the counter was an old wooden stool, and Abraham occupied the one on the other side. Usually, he had a chess partner. So engrossed was he in the game, he didn’t acknowledge you or look up as you entered, however, he knew when you were hovering close, to pay for something you found in the tight stacks, which grew from floor to ceiling in the rear of the shop. It was a very small space, about the size of a double garage in the old neighborhoods. It smelled of dust, old paper, and coffee. The fresh coffee was bitter, but the books absorbed the acrid hard edge of those odors, so now it was a mellow smell, like old cigars and sugar. It was the smell of timelessness.
Abraham did not talk much, but wise people seldom do, and even wiser people, are quite still.
White hair floated around his balding head, wispy and unmanaged, but not unclean. I did not visit as often as I wanted to, as it was miles out of my way, no matter where I was going, but I went there to be in his cloud of timelessness. Where my world fell away, and I was in a tunnel of books and knowledge, safe between the narrow shelves.
I could listen to Otis Redding at home, in my car, but when I heard Otis in this shop, there was a deeper dimension of heartache and loss. Sometimes I would hear “I’ve been loving you too long” along with “These arms of mine” both playing over and over.
I never knew or talked to him other than “thank you” when I walked out. I’m sure he was aware I was just there soaking up the shop, not buying anything, just touching the books, watching the clearstory light filtering itself around him and his playing partner, if he had one that day. I’m sure he watched me, watching him inhabit his baggy trousers, earthy beige cable knit cardigan, and non-descript cotton shirt.
I’m sure he knew or remembered me, even if he didn’t acknowledge me.
I felt absolutely sure he was a kindred spirit, a watcher, an observer. A deep soul. A being like Abraham, “just is“. He simply inhabits a space in time without talking, or moving incessantly about, but still manages to share the depths of himself.
There are no words sometimes.
I would always leave Abraham’s shop in a bit of a discombobulated fog, as if I had just talked about decades of experiences, joys, heartbreaks, and longings, even though I heard not a single syllable uttered toward me.
I cannot listen to Otis Redding music without feeling that old man in my heart.
I have searched for the shop recently but the place disappeared with Abraham.