By The Book

 I recently found myself in Urgent Care on a Saturday afternoon with a raging migraine, waiting for a large needle to be inserted in my spine. When I was a child I needed to be bribed to go to the doctor. I still do. If I promised not to cry this trip  I was going to the hospital used bookstore.

I love books. I used to have a great collection of them. But the 1994 Northridge earthquake disposed of many of them. 

After my harpooning, I hurried to the kiosk and began to eagerly scan the dusty shelves of romance novels and popular fiction.  I discovered a dog-eared 1990 paperback movie edition of Tom Wolfe's Bonfire of the Vanities lurking  in a corner. Younger versions of Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis stared up at me from the cover. My copy was a casualty of Northridge, so I figured this was an omen to re-read it. 

When I got home I was skimming the book when I came across a picture used a bookmark on page 192.  It showed an attractive young couple standing in front of a reflecting pool. On the back it read :

"In Cordoba w/ Jesse @ Alcazar, just lost wallet---still look happy!"

The picture started a thousand scenarios in my head. 

Which one was Jesse?

How did he or she lose their wallet?

Why did they stop at page 192?

As the days marched, on I found myself staring at the picture. 

Were they lovers?


Why were they happy?

How old is the picture? 

Do they still look the same?

I thought about trying to track down this couple of mystery but decided against it. 

The true story couldn't beat the romance, action, and mystery of the one in my head. 

The picture sits on my desk and I find myself glancing at the faces that have launched a thousand tales. Two strangers who now feel like old friends. Two strangers from a mystery that will never be solved. 

Dan Farren is a writer living in California.

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