Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, March 24, 2008

7th floor library blues

Do you remember the seventh floor of the university library?

I do.

I used to go up there to study. Actually, I think I went to the fifth or sixth a lot. The seventh was too crowded with people thinking the same damn thing I was thinking.

But, I was thinking how I used to go up to the seventh floor, where musty, old academic tomes gathered dust and there was this rumor about a weird crazy guy that would stop people in the stacks and ask to see their feet.

(He’d touch those feet lovingly. He’d kiss them. He never asked to see my grotesque hooves, mind, so this is all hearsay. Another rumor running rampant across a campus that might be real or not. Still, our crazy guy in the library was into feet.)

I used to go up there and just stare at these rows and stacks and walls overflowing with books. What was the point of one more in all that mass of words on paper?

I was sitting here, trying to write another book, and I smelled something in the air between mold and air conditioning and seventy-year-old bindings and rampant glues and dirty metal and bleach and dust and it recalled to me that place, where I was sitting among the stacks, all by myself.

In Vancouver, I found a spot on the top floor, where the whole downtown into the bay spread out before me rippling in sunlight like the most beautiful city view you ever wish you had.

In Houston, I found a corner where I had never seen one person pass my stall. I sat among old engineering texts and wondered how come engineers never came to libraries to study the old manuals and tomes that built the city and the streets and all the contraptions inside of them.

In Arlington, the books were so crammed in, that the less-popular sections were kept on rolling shelves. One had to push open the stacks like walking through a portal. One had to be careful not to crush anyone else in the stacks. Undoubtedly, someone found their true love, once, by pushing open the stacks, and startling at the sudden shout from someone being crushed.

I’m working on another book, and I can think only of how awful it is right now. Worst book ever. Will take close to forever to make this one not sucky.

My consolation? ‘Twill be lost in the stacks, for good or ill. ‘Twill melt into dust, and no one will worry about one more book either way.

So, I work. I do the best I can. And it will all fade when the glue loses its grip and the paper crumbles and the ink acidity eats the letters through the page, and the mildew reaches bruised fingers through the cover. For good or ill, everything will dwindle down to dust.

And that's fine.

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