I visit the local library for the first time in at least ten years. It is no longer my local library, but still my parents’, and still local enough. I go because first I took myself to brunch at a café down the road and
had substandard poached eggs that offered me thin white egg juices on the first incision, and dark orange yolk on the second, amalgamating into mush on the plate. I had wanted to write in the café, but brunch then felt like less of a treat and more of a mission.
So I left the café to visit an old friend by the market square, my card so old now it is surely defunct, but still nestled inside my purse. I came out wearing my fleecy black poncho but it is too hot to wear it
so I carry it around like a comfort blanket. It is fine for if you need
something but brought no other humans with you. The ground floor of the library is empty. There used to be a tourist information desk there when I was a child. I go up the stairs to the first floor and think to myself how surprisingly quiet it is before remembering it is, of course, a library.
It looks sparse. There are a few people in – a student sitting with social care text books, a couple of lone women, a man sat alone
reading at the very back, in one of those nooks with only a brick wall for a view. The shelves are shorter than I remember. The back of the room in particular used to seem like a dark, mysterious place with high shelves full of worlds. Now I can almost see over the top of them. I wander around but see nothing that holds my interest or that I recognise. I set up camp at a table behind the social care student. The zip on my bag makes too much noise. The spine of my hardback notebook makes too much noise. I realise I have egg yolk in my hair. I brush it out and realise it’s still wet, and yolk falls onto the table and into the spine of my notebook.
A man comes and sits next to me, bumping into the table as he does so. Says hello, asks how I am, gets out his newspaper, mutters to
himself. Next time I will write in the pub like I used to.
I continue writing in the car after I hotfoot it back through town. I bang the table as I hurry to get up, and whisper “Sorry” because it’s
the polite thing to do. The man says “What? Oh, okay, thank you,” and smiles, and I leave thinking it’s actually fine, I suppose, for a man to sit down at my table while I’m writing, to say hello and ask me how I am, and on the face of it, it isn’t creepy at all. But it is, and it isn’t what I went to the library for. I recount trips to the library as a child with my dad, getting ten books out at a time, every Saturday. I remember the poster halfway down the stairs warning of the dangers of tailgating. Three photos of the back of a lorry – “Close”, “Closer”, then just black, and “Too close”.
I remember a scene from Stephen King’s Insomnia which took place in a library. The scene was strange because there was violence, and the library is one of the least violent places I can think of, but I still feel vulnerable alone in the library, for no sensible reason. I leave the car door open and cool down. My hair stops sticking to the back of my neck. I wonder if I am still hungry. I tease the egg yolk out of the spine of my notebook with my fingernail.