I walked in there, looked the owner in the eye, and said "Hello. I wrote a book. You have an ad running that says you buy books. I would like you to buy mine."
He was obviously a kind and compassionate soul. He looked at me, standing there nervously, holding out my book.
And he took it.
After flipping through the pages and looking at the cover, he turned and opened the register. "Will you take five dollars?" he asked.
"Five dollars? Really? That seems like a lot." I hesitated. I had been hoping for two or three bucks.
"It is more than we usually pay," he agreed, "but what the heck. I'll put it in the window. Let's see what happens. Here, write down your email and contact info for me." he pushed a piece of paper across the desk but my hands were shaking and sweaty and I couldn't actually remember my phone number.
"Can I email you? I can send you all of the information by email, if that is okay." I thought I might throw up, and I really didn't want to make a mess in this nice man's shop.
"Sure," he said agreeably. "That would be great." He handed me a bookmark that he had jotted the email on.
I walked outside and crossed the street on wobbly legs. Leigh was waiting for me, and looked over my shoulder at the store window "OH MY GOD HE'S PUTTING YOUR BOOK IN THE WINDOW."
"Yep." I said weakly. "He sure is. Can you go take a picture? I don't think I can go back over there right now. I need a cup of coffee. Or something." Mostly I just needed to sit down. I hadn't been expecting it to go quite so smoothly, and I didn't know what to think. Was I excited? Relieved?
No, just nauseous.
But that faded as Leigh dashed across the street to document this stunning turn of events, and then we walked around for a few minutes while I tried to calm myself down. After some browsing and a few indiscreet peeks over at the window where my book sat waiting to be discovered, we climbed back in the car and drove to another bookstore. This time I wrote down my contact info on a note card and stuck it inside the front cover before I got out of the car. I walked purposefully into the bookstore and right up to the counter.
"Hello, may I speak with the person who does your book ordering?"
She fixed me with a look that told me she was the gatekeeper. Or possibly the person who did the book ordering - but she certainly wasn't going to tell me if she was.
"Sorry, there is no one here for you to speak with. If you would like to send an email our address is-" she turned back to her work as she spoke, and I interrupted her.
"May I leave this book with you? I'm from Hawaii, and I just want to leave it for your consideration." I smiled weakly. I was being dismissed, and I was trying to shove my foot in a door that was being politely - but firmly - closed in my face.
"You won't get it back" she warned me.
"That's okay." I tried to be blase about it, but what else could I say? It was better to have the book in her hands than in my suitcase. Right?
"All right." she said. No trace of a smile, and the door was once again closing. She took the book and turned to place it in a stack of other books. I turned away as well, and walked out the door. I didn't look back. I didn't ask her name, or if there was someone I could call and follow up with. I just walked away.
"You don't have a book in your hands!" Leigh said encouragingly. "That's a good sign!"
"Well, I don't know. But at least I gave it to her, right?"
I am learning a lot on this trip.
I am learning about rejection - and humility.
I am learning about accomplishment - and pride.
I am learning about myself, and finding strength I forgot I had.
I am learning to ask for help, and accept it.
And I am learning that people can see when someone's heart is in their hands. And the people who matter are the ones who treat it gently, and then hand it back in one piece.