She pushed open the heavy swing door and entered the library.
The floor with alternate black and white tiles appeared like a humongous chessboard. ‘Chess is a foolish expedient for making idle people believe they are doing something very clever, when they are only wasting their time.” Was that George Bernard Shaw? she chuckled softly.
She walked in, her heels clicking on the hard-cold floor. Just past the central reception area, about fifty shelves fanned out. Row after row after neatly lined up books with their spines facing outward stood erect in rapt attention, their ears perked up, like those of man’s best friend, alert for its reader’s call.
The air was humid and muggy. The heat pressed in on her, sweat trickling down her neck like hot soup. She picked a book and chose a table at the far corner of the room right next to an open window.
Bound in red leather, cracked and dry with age, the thin volume smelled faintly of tobacco and dust. She opened the aged book. It smelled warm and musty like the inside of a basement. The book’s original stitching lay threadbare barely holding the book together. The pages within were brittle and yellow. Most people would have left this book without as much as a backwards glance, but then that was the thing about her. Old things fascinated her…so much history, thoughts, feelings, hopes, emotions buried under layers of yellowed leaves, bedraggled, lying forgotten in a dusty corner of an old library.
She wondered momentarily if her Gran felt the same way….
A faint scrawl in blue ink on the inside of the cover read ‘Patricia Smithers’; most likely past owner of the book, she thought.
A tiny hole at the bottom of the page caught her eye, as though the space had been worn out in a desperate attempt to furtively erase an earlier writing in ink.
She held the book against the fresh morning light from the window. Was it Jason…yes Jason…for sure. She wondered who Jason was. Her husband? Or maybe lover? Was it possible that past owners of a book left bits and pieces of their lives within the pages, read and reread possibly several times through pain, memories, love, laughter …
She read the first line. It began in the middle of a sentence, suggesting that either there were pages missing or that there was another volume before this one.
The old fan on the ceiling creaked and whirred.
She thought of the pale pink scar on Gran’s arm, and the way she would run her finger around its jagged edges with a faraway look in her eyes.
She had a sudden intense urge to meet Gran.
She wondered if we really ever appreciated a book for its depth, or did we in fact, just skim the surface and possibly grasp only what was being commonly, most easily understood? What if the books, quite like people, had been standing lone on the shelves for hundreds of years, ageing with time, their laboured breathing echoing down the hallway, their pages drooping like withered leaves, frayed edges longing to be held, waiting to be soothed, or perhaps, understood….
She hurriedly eased down the goose bumps that rose on her arms, as a gust of cool breeze wafted through the open window.