Andy entered the large cavern that was The Bookstore. It was his favorite place of all his favorite places. A world of treasures, and there was always a new treasure to find. Stacks and stacks of books, new and used, and five floors of them. He hurried passed the cashiers. There were three of them, and always ringing up this or that customer.
He bounded up the stairs to the third floor after his favorite book. Someone borrowed his copy. Not just someone. His girlfriend, Tallis. She returned his book of Edward Hopper paintings with a third of the pages missing. She didn’t even apologize. “Here is that damned fool of a book you’re always bugging me about,” her lips said. He was deaf. “I don’t like it, and I don’t like you.”
He came to the shelf where the American artists were found. Where he first found the book of Hopper’s paintings. There were Andrew Wyeths, Grant Woods, Jackson Pollocks, Georgia O’Keefes. “No Hoppers. I can’t believe it. They’ve sold out. No ‘Nighthawks’.” There was a truckload of disappointment in his voice. He tried several other shelves to make sure he had the right shelf for the Hoppers. They were all gone.
Andy made his way back down the poorly lit, narrow alleyway of an aisle and toward the main thoroughfare where he knew there would be a clerk to help him. “May I help you, Mr. Harris?” The young female clerk recognized him from his many visits. He choked back his frustration and got out the word, “Hopper?”
“We’re sold out. There is a big conference on Hopper at the University and all the bookstores are sold out. We can order a copy for you if you like.” Her lips moved slowly so that he would get the words.
He shook his head no, then was back down the stairs and crashing out into the light of the midday sun. The light hurt his eyes. He blinked, then put on his sunglasses. He went to his left and toward the university. He had to see the painting, “Nighthawks”, one last time. One last time before his eyes gave out. One last time before he was blind.
Andy remembered the very first time he saw it. It was the day his hearing disappeared. His mother handed him a book on Hopper, her favorite artist, and he opened it right to the two-page spread of the painting. Until that moment, he had been frightened. He was going deaf. “Nighthawks” settled him into the courage to accept his fate. He was pulled into the painting and his isolation, his loneliness was their isolation, their loneliness. Many times since he had gone in search of that diner or a diner like it and never found it. Now he was searching for the painting for one last look.
Things were beginning to blur as he walked through the gates of the University and toward the conference. Would he make it in time? His walk changed into a run. He stopped several times to catch his breath and to ask where the conference was. Finally he found the auditorium.
The auditorium was filled with conference attendees. At the front and on the stage was “Nighthawks”. Andy could barely see it, his eyesight back to normal. But he could see enough of it to know that it was his painting. Each step toward the stage was lightened by his excitement. It might be the last thing he saw but he was going to see it. The audience watched, entranced, frozen, staring at the gray-haired man. The speaker stopped his talk.
Andy touched the steps to the stage, then he was on the stage, one thing on his mind. “Nighthawks.” Then he was in front of the painting. The canvas was large enough to give his eyes their fill of the pleasure he felt. There were the three people having their coffee. His friends, his parents who always made him feel loved. Loved. Tears blurred his eyes. Everything went dark. Everything fell into the darkest night.
But then he saw it. “Nighthawks” on the dark canvas of his blindness. And he knew he would never be alone again.