Hiding Place

October 11, 2011
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I open the large glass door of the Brownell Library and retreat out of the blazing sun and into the cool, dimly lit hall. Quickly, I turn to my right and walk down a short, dark corridor. Almost immediately, the brick walls of the hall give way to large shelves of books. I walk on hurriedly through the maze of wood and metal shelves, glancing now and then at the titles of random novels as I pass. They look back at me with a sad tiredness, as if frequent misuse has worn down there spirit.
The library is crowded today, the loud, piercing screams of children echoing and reverberating through the building. In amongst the crowd I feel myself become tense and nervous. I continue to make my way through the building, slipping around shelves of books and people, walking softly, trying to slip away from the people without being noticed, as if I were afraid of being seen. With stealth born from hard practice, I slip through the last room and down a flight of stairs. Then I stop.
The room I have entered is long and low, a catacomb of bookshelves arranged in such a way that they form a series of tunnels to hiding spots. The room is empty as usual, one of the reasons I loved it. I walk slowly down the first tunnel, running my finger over their spines. The lighting in the room isn’t natural light; rather, it comes from a series of large florescent lamps that hang from the ceiling. Their light reminds me of a laboratory, a bright white light, which reflects off the pale cream walls, to the point that I can see every detail on the books. I walk farther down the passage of books examining each one as if it was of my specimens. Under my fingers they seem to glow with young, vibrant energy.

When I get to the end of the passage I stop. The stairs I came through have disappeared. I am secluded at last, alone in one of the small nooks where two of the rooms walls and a bookcase join together to create a boxlike space. I lean against the shelves, surrounded only by books and light. I close my eyes and immediately relax. The room is quiet except for the sound of feet on the floor above. I inhale, taking in the scent of old books and carpet. Slowly I sit down cross-legged on the floor. The carpet is rough against my hands and the shelf of books behind me hits into my back uncomfortably, but I stay put. This is a safe place. The world I live in is outside and can’t find me here. Here, I no longer feel the anxiety of the outside world, the fear of what people think of me, the desire to become a shadow that can move around unseen. This is a world all of its own, a middle world, with shelves full of doors to other places so unlike my world that I can become swept away in the adventure. My hand reaches out toward a book, then my eyes open. I draw my hand away. Today I’m not here to travel.

I lean forward and lift the strap of my bag over my head and place the bag before me. I open it and I pull out from its depths a notebook. I lean back and open it. Inside is a story I am writing. I glance at the pages, reminding myself of what has happened. Then I close my eyes, relax, and listen. For a long while there is silence, and then it comes like a tidal wave. My eyes snap open and I begin to write. Here, in my little corner is where authors, although not there in the flesh, whisper in my ear, giving me ideas and advise. They tell me the secrets of how they created their masterpieces, and they help me with my own. They are my friends, laughing with me, crying with me, giving me advice on how to handle problems I can’t speak of with anyone else. They are like ghosts, coming out of the pages of their books to speak to me.
I write, huddled in my corner. There are no deadlines here, time doesn’t even exist. I am alone, but not lonely; the books are there. This is where I feel I belong. I feel safe here, away from the critical eyes of people, which can scorch your confidence in a heartbeat and leave it in ashes. Here, I don’t have to worry whether someone will like my work, if it will pass a grade. Here, everything that it truly important comes clear. I write furiously, the words of wisdom coming out on the page like water. I have trouble controlling the flow. I can’t keep up with the ideas I have flooding my brain. I feel completely content, and I smile as I work.
Finally, the flow of thoughts slows to a trickle. The voices of my mentors began to fade. The meeting is over for today. Slowly, I write the last few notes and close the notebook. I put it back I my bag and look at the time. Two hours have passed. It’s time to leave. With a sigh I stand up and stretch, then grab my bag and walk slowly back the way I came. Half way there a book catches my eye. Slowly, I extract it from the shelf. I study the cover. On it is a girl with a wand and a mass of dark creatures. From the wand, large bolts of blue flame sprout, casting a light that illuminates her face and her look of determination. I tuck the book under my arm. It’s the perfect one. I continued toward the stairway. When I reach it I pause, hesitating to ascend into that world. I look at the book one last time as if to gain courage from it then, clutching the book to my heart, I climb.
The library is still crowded, but quieter now, fewer children. Quickly and quietly I duck and dodge through the shelves of books and the people until I reach the main desk to check out my friend. Then I’m off again, dodging and darting, trying to be a shadow as I make my way as fast as I can to the door. I look at my watch again and hurry up. I am going to be late. Time is my enemy again and I must fight against it to stay alive.
Finally I reached the dimly lit hallway, where the coolness of earlier is fighting against the outside heat. I hurry down it and turn but hesitate, my hand on the door handle. Through the glass of the door I can see the sun, like a huge eye, blazing down on the pavement, scorching the small patches of unprotected grass into sad brown stems. I don’t want to go out into that place, where the people, like the grass, are scorched and burned by the eyes of others. I want to return to my sheltered corner and turn away from the harsh realities but I know I can’t. Slowly, I open the door and step out into the harsh blaze of the sun.

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