Rachel Burns

December 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

I Love my Library

I kick the gate open that hangs from its hinges, walk down the garden path choked with dandelion leaves and open the front door faded red, the grey undercoat exposed by the wind and the rain. I step inside, the hallway smells damp and musty; the mildew has come back, patches of black spores on the ceiling from the leaky bath.

‘Mam.’

The stench of stale cigarettes has the effect of making my stomach churn.

‘Mam I’ve told you, smoke outside in the yard.’

No answer. I walk into the living room, the telly blares out an advert for pay day loans. I turn it down.

Mam has fallen asleep in front of the telly still in her dressing gown. I take the burning cigarette from between her fingers and stub it out in the ashtray.

At the meeting I stand up in the big hall and try to explain how much I need the library, how much books mean to me but my palms go all sweaty and my mouth is bone dry. All I manage is, ‘It’s not fair.’

What I’m bursting to say is “I love my library. I love books like The Hunger Games and Blood Red Road. Income Support don’t pay for books on bloody Amazon. I do my homework on Computer Number Four in the corner of the library basement cos we don’t have one at home.”

I want to say all this but I don’t.

Angry Joe stands up and gives the speech of his lifetime, milking his neglected childhood. Books saved him. Everyone knows that he isn’t exactly a saved man but they applaud anyhow. Then the council guy stands up and talks about budget cuts and how difficult decisions have to be made, how he will preserve what he can.

He is booed off the stage. Somebody shouts above the hullabaloo, ‘Ten libraries ter close, once they gan, they’re lost forever yer knas.’

Later I make my way along the river dividing Newcastle and Gateshead, past the Blinking Eye, the Sage Music Hall and the Tyne Bridge. The street lights come on as the darkness closes in. The ground blue with cold. I think about the libraries sitting empty, the empty buildings, the empty rooms, the empty tables, the empty chairs, the empty bookshelves, the empty lives.

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