I used to buy my books at a shop called W. A. Houben when I was a student at Richmond the American International University in London in 2003-05. It was our unofficial campus bookstore. I also bought a gorgeous 1906 edition of Don Quixote there.
This place was right down a pedestrial alleyway very near a war memorial by the medieval St. Mary Magdalene Church in Richmond, probably the first war memorial in the UK I’d really paid attention to. It had a Gothic shape much like the memorial in St. Peter’s Square in Hereford, where Jack lived.
If my memories of Jack’s life are the suggestions of a wild imagination (I never ruled that out), I have no doubt that the seeds of it were planted there; on the other hand, if Jack’s memories were real, then I have no doubt the area over by the bookstore was the start of a long, slow-burning chain reaction that led to my anamnesis. Either way, I’m absolutely certain my first trip to W. A. Houben around September 2003 precipitated the first episode involving Jack’s memories in 2012. I was dogged thereafter by that familiar sense of gnawing, fleeting familiarity, of things just on the edge of recollection, of buildings, signs, and items in antique shops raising the hair on the back of my neck a little. Within a year and a half I was searching for a village from the back of my mind; within 6 years I was ready to admit I felt very strongly that I’d lived around the turn of the 20th century. Within 9 years my memories had a name, rank, and serial.
I’m sad to say the bookstore that figured into all this is gone now. That bookstore and the quiet little nook in Richmond it was tucked into had a very special place in my memory, and now that corner of the world is just a little poorer for it. I wonder what other places I’ve loved are going to shutter?