28 Day Writing Challenge #12

By , Elk Grove, CA

Ink. Day 12:
Ink. The smell was as pervasive as his loneliness. Eating away at him. Half baked ideas etched in ink and dripped across the pages like syrup. He used to be allowed to hang out at the library. Stalk the rows for days. The divorce did not lead to a permanent ban, or even a real ban. He just couldn't go to that particular library. No big deal, right? Wrong. This library was special. It was the best, it had a quality of imaginative otherness that only lingered in certain places forertain times. You walked in and felt the sense of belonging, among the rows of books and strangers consuming the knowledge and trash. People read because they're bored, they want to learn, they are forced to read and they choose to read. The library was a place but it was also a sate of being. There was a teen section in front, mirroring an adult section with the latest best sellers. A bit further down was a desk where all the librarians, including his ex wife, worked. After the hardwood desks was the children and preteen section, which was great because there was a lot of furniture for everyone and it was shaped like squiggly lines. The very, very back of the library past the computer laboratory, had a wonderful room. The butterfly room. A big cream coloreleather window seat, stretching the whole room until the door. It was usually empty because the wrap around windows magnified the heat, but after they installed air conditioning it became a pleasant place to hang out. From the ceiling hung hundreds of paper butterflies that looked ready to take flight at any moment. It had been his wife's idea, it was her favorite place in the library. They used to spend hours together, poring over every book they could find. Kevin went to the library once, alone. He had waited until he knew she wouldn't be there. He walked in and felt the eyes lingering. He'd been homeless for two or three weeks. Long enough to smell a bit off, and be unshaven more than acceptable. He walked to the butterfly room. It was empty. He sat down with a book he had brought, one he owned. One she had written. It was titled: "Observations" and her name was golden and curlicued at the bottom. The inside cover said To Kevin, which was him. It was a list of sorts. All the people she had seen in the library and on the bus. What their child had done that day. It was an anniversary gift from four years ago. The divorce was three months ago. The homelessness was a choice. The book smelled like cookies and ink, a weird combination. The butterfly room smelled like regret. You don't want to know what Kevin smelled like, and he himself didn't know because his allergies were flared. Possibly because he lived on a bench now. He didn't see his wife. But he saw someone else there. It was almost worse, because if it was her she would just run away and ignore him, she hated confrontation. But instead, while he leafed through "Observations", he saw his son. And he waved. Like an idiot which he was. His son was 14 and embarrassed that his self-imposed homeless dad was in his mother's library reading a book of filtered nostalgia. The shame when his son came over was all he felt. " When are you coming back?" The boy asked. Tall and pale and lanky. Familiar. He was holding a book, The Giver. "I don't think I will." Kevin said in a non harsh way. Not hostile. Just plain. His son stood there for a while and then said what he said. "OK." That was all. The boy fidgeted nervously and pushed his retainer, which he had gotten maybe a year ago. Kevin left. He never went back. OK. That was all he could smell and hear and feel at the library now. Not ink. The butterflies had flown away.

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