Image: Poh Siang Seah

“I tread carefully along the narrow path that weaves between the piles of books. There are no bookshelves, and I need to tuck in my elbows as I advance to avoid calamitously collapsing the precarious piles towering around me. After every four or five piles there’s a gap, allowing me to meander in a different direction. This place is like a warren, but one created by excavating books rather than earth, as if the shop had once been completely filled with books, and the empty spaces were created over decades, one book at a time, as each came to be sold.

I soon discover this bookshop is deceptively large. Delving deeper is a claustrophobic yet compelling experience. Dim bulbs glow in the ceiling between hefty timber beams, making this strange shop seem more like a mine where books were hewn.

I don’t know how long I was wandering, how far I penetrated or what made me stop to look at that particular pile. Maybe I was always meant to stumble across it, or perhaps it was the smell. The seductive musky scent of sex, or was it just the musty smell of books? I find both so difficult to distinguish, they remind me of each other…”