He’d start by gathering all the letters and sorting them. Then he’d sweep a feather duster over the merchandise in the shop window and organize the boxes which hadn’t been put away the day before. First thing in the morning he was always fussed about leaving the shop neat and tidy for potential clients. As soon as everything was organized, he would sit behind the counter and make what he liked most: light bulbs.
There was no way it would’ve been anything else. The lighting shop had lamps, spotlights and light bulbs of all sorts and colours, but they were cold and lifeless objects. Alberto had learned the art of “shedding light” from his grandfather, who had learned it on one of his voyages as a sailor.
Seamen would use the stars to find their way on long journeys, but on dark and stormy nights not even the moon would shine through the massive grey clouds. So, his grandfather would make lights which lit the route they wanted to take.
The technique was simple: all he had to do was catch a human thought and use it to make the filament of the light bulb. Then he would hollow it out, connect it to the current of a generator and it was ready. However, catching a thought could be difficult at times.
His grandfather had it easy: everybody on the ship appreciated his skills and would ask him for help, but in the city people were more reluctant. This was because the fastest and easiest way to do it was by using a human hair.
At that moment Alberto kept on twisting a reddish hair against a metal rod. He would have to flip it carefully so it wouldn’t break and would be able to stand high temperatures. If everything went well, the light would shine through the hair projecting the wishes of whoever it had come from.
One more flip, he hollowed it out, screwed the light bulb into a socket and pressed the switch. Alberto smiled; he liked what he saw. A lot of people found it difficult to understand it at first glance, and others never knew what they were seeing, but he was well trained after many years. That light talked of dreams, travels and adventures.
He had found it in the station, on the headrest of a bench. He would never get to know the person from whom it had grown personally, but now he would have their light for many years.
He turned off the light bulb, unscrewed it and put it in a box behind the counter. The truth was, Alberto didn’t make lights for himself. The ones he made he would sell to his clients, in hope that they’d guide and inspire them.
That morning he knew somebody would need on, and he smiled thinking of all the ones he had already sold. The door opened and the little bell which hung from the threshold rung as a new customer came in. It was a woman who smiled when she saw him. Alberto didn’t take his eyes off her. Years of making lights and he had never seen eyes like these. Her look was as clear as the first light at the break of dawn and she radiated hope.
With a lump in his throat, he served her behind the counter and, almost breathless, he spoke:
“Good morning. What are you looking for?”
The woman smiled again and took a small torch out of her bag and aimed it at him.
To my grandparents, Aurora and Alberto.