Four half-finished crumpled letters joined his broken driver’s license and shredded British passport in the wastepaper bin behind the counter. The fifth attempt was successful, and was only marred by a single tear-stain. He signed it at the bottom, then hesitated, biting his lip. At the last he signed it a second time under the neat-printed “Eric Garner,” this time signing with his real name.
He slipped the letter into the large manila envelope that contained the signed-over deed to the building and property of In Libros Veritas, and left it in a conspicuous spot on the counter, half-propped against the cash register.
Upstairs, in his apartment, he fed Tithonus one last time, imitating the cricket’s sing-song chirp. He threw out the last of the food in the refrigerator. He closed the curtains and straightened the tablecloth. Most of his clothing he gathered in garbage bags, to be given to goodwill; those that were left he packed into a small duffel bag. In a backpack he took a few keepsakes: his first-edition copy of Yeats’ Stories of Red Hanrahan and the Secret Rose; an old beer stein; a small, worn, reddish pebble; a spearhead, pitted and old, its shaft having long since rotted away, wrapped in protective leather; a daguerreotype of a young woman in Victorian dress; a page of age-worn vellum covered in faded Latin; a list of phone numbers. He picked up the backpack and the duffel, put on his hat, and took his cane from the rack near the door.
He reconsidered only once, at the outer door of the bookstore, when he paused and looked around one last time. The books seemed to watch him from the aisles and shelves, seemed to whisper, an inaudible susurrus of rustling pages and timeless knowledge. But then he smiled at them, and winked with his good eye–saluted with his cane and tipped his hat. The door closed and locked behind him, and a moment later he pushed the key through the mail slot so Latika would find it when she opened the next morning. Then he turned, breathing in the cold and noxious air of 41st Street and Northern Boulevard, stepping forward on the sidewalk, simultaneously feeling as though he had lost his right arm and as though a burden had been lifted from his back. Whether relief or pain, it was time to be moving on.
A car was waiting.
ET EXIIT NESCIENS QUO IRET