Was it April

The bookstore never opened. My wife and I have been intrigued by the idea: a bookstore at a not-so-prime spot, at the tail end of carinderias branching out from major thoroughfares of Raymundo and F.O. Santos. The spot became prime when a business venture selling chicken Inasal made good money. It was the first Inasal spot in Los Banos, after all. Eight pesos for a cup of rice! Everything grilled for student meals! Soy sauce, vinegar, and chili oil on bottles. The place teemed with classmates, friends of friends, and from afar the smoke rose from the grill assembled outside, sans the chimney. Basically every car and every tricycle passing by the place slows down with the fog-like smoke coming from the grill. For college students tired from the day, it smelled heavenly. The restaurant was as shabby as it was when it relocated to another prime spot, across the Admin building and the Carabao Park and just beside the UP Gate.

The place was vacant as ever. Nobody dared to go past that area of Umali Subdivision, since it's all residential houses with small businesses: fruit stalls, barbecue stands, lugawan. Some vacant lots, some haunted houses, some robberies. Until we've seen a jeepney unloading tons of books at the place where the Inasal restaurant used to be. My wife was curious enough that one day, she arrived at our apartment bearing good news. It is a bookstore! It was owned by this really old couple from New York. She talked to them, got herself treated with a bottle of Coke. It was March, and the summer heat was getting unbearable. The old man was painting the first few letters of their bookshop. The old woman talked a lot, used to work in one of the museums in New York, or something art-related. The decision to come home wasn't easy for them, my wife said, but the wife (or the husband) had a stroke. Maybe it's time to go home, they said.

There were tons of books, she said, mostly art-related. From the looks of it, it would take them months to just sort at least five hundred boxes of books coming in from New York. Some carpenters were doing woodwork outside, making bookcases and built-in shelves. There were heaps inside the room, and it's just a mess. It looked like bales of hay straight from a scene from that Grimm fairytale, Rumpelstiltskin. When it was my turn to inquire about the place, the doors were already shut. The painting was unfinished. It was all hasty, but come the end of April, before I left for New York, I took a last glimpse of the bookstore that never was, and knew something happened.