Tuesday, April 14, 2009

September 28: My body is a cage

I believe the gate operates as follows. There are a number of steel bars suspended on tracks in the ceiling. A number of these are designed to lock securely in dimples in the floor; the keyholes are located as roughly waist height. The bars are joined by horizontal chains so that the entire passage is blocked. We can see just a few people on the other side of the gate. They walk about calmly, talking to one another.

One wears navy pants and the medium blue buttoned shirt that identifies him as security. His face and hands are black, and his hands hold keys.

All but that lucky few stand this side of the gate. There are dozens: a dark man in dark clothes clasps his hands behind him and leans forward and bak like a pendulum. A woman with a blond ponytail wears a baggy jacket taps her purse with long fingernails, the clasp of the purse so it clacks once a second, exactly. One teenage girl clasps at the chains, expectantly peering through at the clock high on the wall, on the other side. The clock is nearing one and a couple more of us grab at the bars. I and most present hang back to assure ourselves we are not so desperate, but I suspect we are. I try to read them but if I make judgments based on their appearances, it is because that is all I see. There is more to it than that, of course -- like me, they are trapped outside this cage. I can only guess what brings them here, and most of my guesses are also cages.

What brings anyone to a library? I have heard some criticise literature as escapism, or perhaps only certain genres, and maybe they are even right. If these people are escaping from something, what is it? Maybe it is like this: for one book, the man escapes his darkness, the woman from her femininity, the teenager from her awkward years. There are heroes in an unheroic age, those too poor for eccentricities, people born too early or too late for their calling. So it is like this: the man would have been a feudal lord, the woman a Martian colonist, the girl -- hasn't made up her mind yet. The world is trapped outside the library.

A lonely bell rings and the guard meticulously unlocks the gate. He puts the key in each hole one -- at -- a -- time, until the metal lattice of a gate crackles open and the crowd runs inside. I hold back, walking in, to maintain my composure.


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