Wednesday, October 31, 2018

The moment I walk in I am calmer

It's the smell, I think. Books, specifically, library books, all smell the same to me. Something familiar and comforting. Paper and dust motes. My ten-year-old self with the bed covers thrown over my head.


As a kid I liked to wander the aisles, trace my fingers along the book spines. I still like to do this. I don't know why it's taken me so long to work in this place. 

And how fitting to be the person who gets to shelve the books. I start each day with a cart, everything quickly and perfectly organized by the alpha numeric label. 

There's a whole system going on behind the scenes that I never thought about. All of those books being checked out and checked back in. All of the carts that need to be shelved, and shelved, and shelved. Am I too fast and maybe making a mistake? Am I too slow, struggling to see those teeny tiny numbers? 

Those labels are what I'm focusing on when I shelve, but still, I can't help glancing at a cover here and there, thumbing through pages. A book of essays I heard about on NPR. A true crime story. That novel I've been meaning to read. And other books that snag my interest as I fit them into their proper place on the shelf. 

Books on photography and printmaking. Biographies of obscure people. Holiday decorating. I want to check out all of them. And I can. 

Different from when I was a child and restricted by what I could carry in my arms for a mile. My mom and little brothers and I walked to the library back then. Actually, it was only that one year when we didn't have a car. The walk took forever. A hilly trek through a park. A rounding of the corner. And then, the wall along the front of the library. My brothers and I would climb on it, pretend we were walking at the edge of a high building, arms out. 

A few months ago I went back with one of them. We stopped in the park and walked from there. It was a gray chilly day. The town where we'd grown up was exactly the same and totally different from when we were kids. 

We came upon the wall and I said, do you remember--

at the same time my brother hopped up onto it, walked the edge, arms out. He read as much as I did when we were little. Now he reads ten times more. 

Although, now that I am working at a library, maybe I will catch up.