In July, the heat rolls off the streets in waves, bounding down the asphalt and nipping at the feet of vacationers in our tourist- trap central. Most come for the books; that lazy, dreamlike juncture one acquires in running their fingers over leather bound spines as gingerly as they might fondle a newborn, breathing in the ink stained apothecaries.
Reading, or so my mother swears, is a modern medicine. A vaccination birthed from the sprawling stories of honey haired maidens in faraway castles and girls with bursting corsets in Victorian eras, dancing and sipping on fizzling champagne in their fictionally beautiful lives.
I came before the summer months, back to this familiar library as I had so many days before. In the winter, when the trees feebly cling to their summer skins and the streets of our town lay desolate of sunburned, camera- wielding tourists. I’d sit by the animal mural in the children’s room rather than the front lounge, because I felt more concealed from the terrors of adolescence in the softened bean bag cushions, the brightly colored table tops and grinning stuffed animals. I can escape, if only for a little while, until the pages fall from my hands and the woman working the front counter tells me the library is closing in ten minutes. And then, I fall back into myself as I so begrudgingly have for years, and I leave. But these are the winter days, the days of imagination.
In the summer, this library becomes a place of navigating tightly packed bodies, snapping photos of the vintage bookshelves and spiral staircases. A friend of mine once said they’re the weirder breed of tourist, the ones who would rather find the comforts of an age old library rather than visit the beach. I can’t find it in myself to blame them, really. Where I had found the beach to be a place of sand infested food and mosquito swarming opportunities, I had found real escape in my library. The mural on the big east wall never changed, a fact I had unknowingly been grateful for as my own body continued to grow and change. The stuffed animals in the children’s room still smiled, and the brittle-boned arthritic old ladies working the reference desk still tsked disapprovingly when you returned a book after its due date. “May I remind you, dearie, of our strict return policy?”
If you take five paces to the left, down the hallway past the front entrance, and then another right, you’ll find one sun- faded leather-bound copy of Peter Pan. It juts out, slightly, on the shelf, which I had done intentionally so as to remember its place. I found it months ago, fingers tracing along the spines of stories more interesting than my own. Characters, so many characters, who had willingly wrapped me into the warmth of their pages, browned and faded in the light coming through the sunroof just above. But Peter Pan stole my heart and gave it to Neverland, and I’ve been enamored ever since. I visit that library all the time, just to find that copy and sift through the pages, to remember the fears of a red haired boy who might have loved to sit in that library’s children’s room and forget about growing old. I owe so much to him, to that library, to my tourist swarming town just to the left of the middle of nowhere. I know leaving someday is inevitable, but I don’t think I’ll ever say goodbye. Because someone once told me to never say goodbye, because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.
And what a terrible thing that must be, to forget a place that watched me grow, the objective spectators in the wall murals; watching me read, dream, shake the pixie dust from my fingertips while I figured out how to fly.
About the Author: Erin Fishman is a sixteen year old aspiring writer from a town with decidedly more tourists than actual residents. She currently attends High School and hopes to study Creative Writing and Literature in college.