A couple nights ago, E.S. and I went out to eat. I had my copy of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince with me, and put it under my chair.
About halfway through dinner, I heard a nearby voice say softly, “Excuse me? Excuse me, sir?” I paid it no attention until E.S. said, “Faustus, she’s trying to get your attention,” and indicated a girl sitting across from us at a table with her mother. The girl was staring longingly at my feet.
I was baffled and beginning to be somewhat disturbed, until the girl’s mother said, “She’s looking at the Harry Potter book. She wants me to get it for her.”
The girl’s eyes were so full of longing, of love, of the pain one feels when one is separated from one’s heart’s desire–even if by only a few feet–that I reached down and handed her the book. “Here, go ahead and take a look at it,” I said. She accepted it reverently, as if it were a Gutenberg Bible. She caressed its cover, opened it to where I’d marked my place and read a few words, flipped around and read a few words elsewhere. “You should get it for her,” I told the mother with a smile.
“She wants it,” she replied, “but $30.00 is a lot of money.”
“You could probably find it online at a heavy discount,” said E.S.
The mother didn’t quite seem to believe this, but after a moment she nodded. “I’ll check it out,” she said.
After a few more minutes, the girl got up from her table and returned my book. “I want it so bad,” she said. “I’ll get a job if I have to, so I can get the book.” Her face was wracked with emotions so complex it would demean them to describe them here.
Eventually, E.S. and I paid our check and left. I almost gave her the book on the way out. I mean, if they were eating at that restaurant then the mother had $30.00 to spare, but the girl’s performance was so committed and powerful I felt it deserved to be recognized. If not with an Oscar, then at least with a Harry Potter book.