The Night Snack

During my final year at college in Tokyo, I worked part-time at a tiny local bookstore close to my apartment. A few days a week, I would go to the store in the late afternoon and work at the cash until 1 am – the closing time of the store. Yes, I know, it’s a bit crazy for a bookstore to be open until this late even in Tokyo, but apparently, the headquarter of the company thought otherwise. In any case, it was my job to operate the cash, greet and help the customers and organize the bookshelves in the front whenever I had a moment.

Since it was a long shift, I was given three breaks – two short and one long. The long break was usually scheduled at around 9 pm after the evening rush. At that time, my colleague would come from the back to take me off, and I would punch out, grab my wallet and happily go out for my dinner.

Even though there were many small restaurants on the street, my destination was always the same – the grocery store located a few blocks down the street. Once I was there, I would search for my favourite bento box, one of the cheapest, but with rice and a few good quality dishes. After that, I would pick up my dessert. It was a snack bread with delicious cream in it. I then paid for these two items and ran back to the store to eat my dinner.

The store was so tiny, but its staff room was even tinier. It was more like a storage place with piles and piles of books. But it felt like a most wonderful haven to me when coming in for my dinner break. I would perch myself at the tiny desk by the wall, which was also cluttered with different paper documents and books, push away some items to create room for my food, then open my bento box.

I never had to carry my own books for my break because the room always stored so many to choose from. I would often pick one of the new comic books from the pile and read it while eating my dinner. That was truly the most luxurious experience – reading and eating simultaneously! The best part was when my bento box finished, and I reached for my snack bread. I smiled at the sweet melting cream on my tongue as I continued my reading. Surrounded by thick walls of books and clutters, nobody was there to disturb me while I indulged in this private luxury. By the time my break time was over, my mind would be transported to a totally different space due to the story I was reading and the satisfaction of eating my food.

It was with a small sigh that I would put on my apron and head back to resume my work at the cash. Even then, the magic of my break time didn’t disappear right away. I would enjoy the sense of being in another world for some more time before the reality of the heavy closing tasks caught up with me.