I miss going to the library, a stop along the way, just part of my day.
I miss the librarians, their carts stacked high, rolling around the aisles, passing by. I miss standing in line, rifling through my purse for my library card. I miss leaving with my big recycled bag full of books. I miss really reading instead of scrolling through my phone meaninglessly.
I miss the older people quietly scanning the newspapers at the big wooden tables, all spread out, with no place to be. Folding them back up, tenderly. Fixtures among the fixtures.
And I miss searching for a good autobiography. Or books on architecture and art. Or wars. Or travel. Or poetry. Or romance or history. Suspenseful thrillers, or a juicy, page-turning, can’t-put-it-down mystery.
I miss the dust jackets. And reading about the authors, their partners, where they live, and their dogs. I miss turning to the dedication page, and wondering about all those lovely people who inspired them to write, who supported them, who put up with their starts and stops, their moods, and their bullsh*t.
I miss the quiet calm and the whispering, the lack of noise.
But, I miss the noise, too.
I miss the little ones clamoring around the children’s room, with their shuffling, their laughter, their questions. I miss their expectant eyes, their discoveries.
When my children were little, the library was an adventure. Something to do. Something I felt great about doing—a wholesome activity, educational, and fun. After, as a special treat, we would stop at the coffee shop. We would quietly sip something warm while relaxing inside our books and each other’s precious, mellow company.
I miss the scholar working in the corner, writing a thesis.
I miss the rub of the carpet and the bulletin board with its overflow of local listings, public announcements, resources, and services offered throughout the town.
I miss the windows, the benches, and the doors.
I miss the thrill of finding exactly what I’m looking for, reviewing it quickly, snatching it off the shelf, and feeling that quick rush of glee. I found it. It’s mine. For exactly three weeks.
Does anyone else feel this way? Anyone else view a book, a glorious library book, as a precious uncovered, excavated gem, something to foster, something to assume responsibility for?
I miss stepping into other worlds. I miss specific writers. I miss marveling at the gallery style walls, books like soldiers in line, all the toil and trouble, and of a writer’s thoughts, all the heartfelt expressions, and yearning, and drama contained within. A writer’s failures and successes, jotted on napkins, transferred into a word processor. To write anything is to dream, to invent, to carefully calculate, to store history. How many times was each book written, and rewritten, how many times were sentences crossed out, papers balled up and thrown across rooms, how many times were they erased, only to reemerge victorious after a deep and dark, frustrating battle of will?
I miss the way the library smells. It smells the same in every town. It smells like freedom and adventure and open roads and sticking it to the man.
I miss fingering the pages, all ink, and grit and numbers, all paragraphs, and epilogues and preambles.
And yet, with all the books waiting to be cradled in our arms, waiting for our love and attention, there is still so much left unwritten, left to be said. Eternal books to feed our minds, instead of being fed.
In this sea of lost time and forgotten chapters, inside this swirling mass of seconds and minutes and hours that dive and dart and swim captive amid a tenaciously unsinkable virus and the unknowable future of intellect, creativity, and human reinvention, I guess I just miss the bloody words.