|The stacks in Wilson Library, University of North Carolina|
at Chapel Hill
When I feel afraid and overcome, I turn to books and stories.
I've written about them before -- the musty floors of old Wilson library at UNC in Chapel Hill where I spent hundreds of hours studying, wandering around, my fingers trailing the dusty spines of books forgotten. On the top floors you could find an empty carrel with a wooden desk scratched with the initials of long ago lovers, a peace sign, a curse word. I kissed my boyfriend there, sitting on his lap, our books and notebooks and pens scattered. Fifteen minutes before 11:00 at night, an ancient man, an Ichabod Crane with a head roamed the stacks, ringing a giant cowbell to warn us of closing. You rode creaky elevators down and then waited in line with other library rats (the less studious studied at the more open library or in the magnificent reading room where you could see and be seen) to have your backpack riffled through, the security measures of the last millenium. Then out onto the broad steps of the library, the campus spread out in front of you, the air velvet for the library behind you, the gracious oaks and lawns stretching forward into some impossibly benign future.
I can go there whenever I want -- to the carrels, to books, to metal shelves and scratched love notes, to kisses and love, leaves on trees and lazy days when my mind was busy with Auden and Li Po, with French verb conjugations and Nicaraguan history, figuring out whether he loved me or not and so on. That library, those stacks, that time in my head sustains me, sometimes, when I feel suffocated by the minutia of the life I live now. It is, in fact, books and my memory of them, how I felt as I read, how I lost myself in them, that sustains me in constancy. It is, in fact, books and the present, how I feel as I read, how I lose myself in them, that sustains me in constancy.
What are you reading?