In the Union Square Barnes and Noble, the night before I left New York, we looked for poetry handbooks. The literature is to the right of the escalator. I knew this. I know the layouts of major bookstores in major cities; it's one of the things I do. But in bookstores with other people, I get self-conscious, worried about whether I linger too long or seem to spend too much. I hurry too much. I doubt myself. We actually checked the store directory when we reached the third floor and still hadn't seen the fiction and poetry sections. They're on the fourth floor; I had been heading directly to them, drawn, pulled. I have haunted those sections before.
On the way back down the escalator, a few minutes later, I looked to my right and saw, affixed to the plexiglass barrier between escalator and open space above the third floor, the small black sticker with the small red broken heart on it. The black sticker looked almost like a word bubble from a cartoon. The broken heart was small enough that you might miss it in your passing, especially if you were occupied in some way that didn't involve looking around. "Oh," I said, "back there, there was a broken heart beside the escalator." She encouraged me to go back and take a picture. I was reluctant, hurrying and doubting myself, worrying that there was no time. She sent me back up the escalator; I had to limp to get there, having smashed my toe earlier in the afternoon. On the way back down, even with my camera drawn well in advance, I almost missed it.
Who affixes her broken heart to a transparent surface in a bookstore? Does he carry a packet of stickers around and defiantly leave one behind when the barriers get to be too solid? Do they travel together, plotting the best places to stick reminders for anyone who might have dismissed thoughts of a broken heart from her mind, from his hands?