Quiet room. But not entirely still. Swoosh of turning pages, heavy sighs, chair leg pushing across smooth carpet. Run my fingers down the spines of the books. Feeling the fabric. The cardboard. The little reference number stickers with the corners starting to peel off. Breathe in deep. Old paper and new.
A creak in the floor announced my presence. I froze. My cheeks flushed. I prayed no one would look up and see me.
Even as a small child I knew there was something illicit about going into the grown-up room of the library. Even though I was so small I didn’t know the word illicit. I had to walk past the stern librarian to get there. Heart pounding. I always kept my eyes forward to avoid her stare and any questions.
I’d smile. I knew I was doing something wrong. But by whose standards, I wasn’t sure. My parents didn’t care. So why did anyone else? Except that it was a small town and everyone cared.
I’d walk down the aisles. I never looked for anything specific. I just enjoyed the thrill of being there. Of not knowing why exactly if felt so thrilling.
The grown-up room was mostly nonfiction, however. The juicy romance paperbacks were kept on a spinner rack next to the librarian’s desk, directly under that stern glare. It was my next challenge, once I outgrew the thrill of the grown-up room.
I’d spin the racks slowly. They always let out a groan of protest. Even with my back to the desk, my cheeks would heat up and go scarlet, knowing the librarian looked up at the noise. Slipping out an old paperback worn smooth, peeking at the cover.
I was certain everyone in the library was watching me, a gawky, nerdy young teen, with no boobs and no chance of having a boyfriend, pick up books from the romance shelf. Taking those books to the desk was like an out-of-body experience. This was back when you had to hand your books over to the librarian and the town was so small, there were no library cards. The librarian knew who your parents were. I pretended to ignore the books I was checking out. I’d absentmindedly finger the corner of a bookmark or flyer left on the desk, avoiding eye contact with everyone in hopes they wouldn’t remark on my books.
Now I want it to be someone’s business. I have the power, not the stern librarian. I can request anything from The Purity Myth to Lady Chatterly’s Lover to Little Birds from the library and someone has to find that book and put it on the shelf for me. Someone will think about me reading that book. Someone will see me reading that book. And maybe that someone will think about reading that book themselves. Give in to the thrill.