The Silence of a Library
There are different kinds of silences in the world. The silence of nightfall, the air cool and expanding around you; the silence of a classroom when the teacher waits for a student to raise their hand; the silence at a funeral when the family is paying their respects.
The silence of a library is a warmer kind of silence, one that wraps you up and holds you close and entices you to come farther in. The entire building smells of paper—there’s the fresh scent of the more recently published novels, the used, woody smell of the classics, the plastic hint of magazines. The carpet deafens your footsteps; noise is reduced to the rustling of paper and books being placed on shelves.
Sunlight peaks in through the windows, even on those frigid winter days, for the sole purpose of bringing light to thousands of stories. There’s whispered conversation coming from one end of the building, but it’s just the receptionist, and it calms rather than irritates you.
You could wander the isles for hours, your fingertips tracing the spines of the books, head tilted slightly to read the titles. Time slows down for you. Your pace slackens and you take longer to appreciate the things you can see and hear and touch. The weight of a book in your hands, the crinkle of the pages between your fingers. Black words dance across white paper and conjure up images that somehow feel more tangible than the shelves in front of you.
Yes, this is one you want to take home with you.
At the front desk, you pass your books to one of the librarians. She peers over her glasses and taps away at her keyboard. You smile and thank her before you leave.
And then you step back into the real world, and a car blares its horn as it races past you. People are busier, faster, brushing quickly past you with clear destinations in mind. You glance down at your selection of books and hold them tightly to your chest.
If you open one and start to read, maybe it will transport you back to the safety of the library.
The Monster Under My Bed
There is a monster that sits at the foot of my bed. I do not name it, because that would only serve to make it real. You tell me it’s real, you call it names and I press my hands over my ears, refusing to believe you. You wish I would get help, but I don’t. Getting help would mean admitting the existence of this beast. It is not real, I tell myself repeatedly, but words start to sound meaningless the more you say them.
My monster is a shape-changer of sorts. There are days when it is nothing more than a little black dog, when I can pull a leash over its neck and drag it along behind me, when I can tie it to the chair as I get dressed and carry it with me to work. On these days, I can almost forget that it is even there.
There are the in-between days, when my monster turns into a wolf whose head reaches my shoulder, whose growl seems to rattle my entire body, whose yellow fangs glisten beneath pink and black gums.
It takes the two of us to wrestle it to the ground. We tie chains around its legs, when we have chains; we put a muzzle over its jaws, when we have a muzzle. These are the days when I can defeat my monster. I make it past the edge of my bed, through the door, into the kitchen. Sometimes I even get to work. But I am tired, exhausted from the fight to keep the beast under control. Even when we tie it down, it sits in the corner of my vision, salivating at the idea of its next meal.
And then there are the Black days. I call it this because, when I wake up, the monster has grown so huge that it envelopes the whole room and wraps its great shadowy fingers tightly around my body, strapping me to the bed. I fight and I kick and I scream as loud as I can, but even you can’t fight off the shadows on these days. They are too thick and twisted and contorted. You say you hold my hand, but on these days, I can’t feel it. A gaping Black hole yawns inside my body, threatening to swallow me completely, to erase the world from existence and to throw me into a place so deep I will never be able to get out. There are days when I believe this will happen.
And I think it would, were I alone on these days.
But you wait patiently, arms stretching towards me, waiting and waiting and waiting while the Black chews away at my spirit. You wait until it grows weak, and then we take it on together, side by side. I am grateful I do not have to fight my monster alone.
I like to believe that one day, we will kill it. Together.