Wednesday, 25 July 2007

Tales from the Library: forest

Today I locked myself in the interview room and cut out big letters from sugar paper. I am working on a wall display. The letters are brown and are meant to look like wood. The theme is nature. I am also cutting out flower shapes. And leaves. I am glueing the leaves onto the letters. I am glad I am not out in the Library proper. It's been too busy lately. I'm trying to think of other reasons to lock myself in here. This room is so peaceful. I have pulled the blind across so no one even knows I'm in here.

I found some blue paper in the cupboard. It is a kingfisher blue. I wish there was more of it, but the sheet is small. I would wrap myself in this paper if it was bigger, and if it was thinner. But it won't bend around a body very well at all. I decide to make it into a bird. The bird's underbelly will be orange, for contrast. The bird will perch on top of the letter “d”, above where the leaves are glued. It will have more the effect of a branch than of a tree. But that will be okay.

The other year, the theme was Pirates. I got to say “arrrrr” a lot. We made pirate hats and wore them. It changed the air in the Library. It felt like an adventure. These leaves and wooden letters are supposed to lend an air of the forest to the Library. Oh the irony. There will be butterflies and beetles for small hands to cut out, to colour in. And we will read stories about hedgehogs and rabbits, and other woodland creatures. I remember when they made “hedgehog” flavour crisps. They were amazing. The stories won't be about hedgehogs being eaten.

If I hadn't run out of green paper, I would lock myself in the interview room tomorrow, and the day after that, and I would cut out leaves of all shapes and sizes. I would cut out so many that they would fall off the table and into massive piles on the floor. I would stick a ball of Blu Tack to each leaf. And when the children came in, I would press one leaf into each tiny hand, and after counting backwards from three, I would whisper to them to stick their leaves to the walls, to the windows, to the bookshelves, to the books. To anywhere they would stick to. Until the Library became a forest once again.

Sunday, 22 July 2007


I stop by the fence to collect my thoughts. Absently, my fingernail follows the grain, circles the knots. I do this when I'm thinking: trace lines and outlines, doodle new shapes over what's already there.

He doesn't expect me. It's too early on a Sunday morning for him to be dressed. I'm standing on his porch as his confusion slips to happiness and back again. He steps back to let me enter. It's then that I kiss his cheek. Giddy, I walk past him, into the heart of the room. And he follows. His mouth opens, and before the question can spill out, I press my lips against his, stop him, start this new thing. And after a time, when the standing needs to become sitting, we tumble clumsily into his bedroom, onto his bed. This Morse Code Is All Wrong, his fingertips whisper into my hair. Isn't It? To which my only reply is a shifting of our centre of gravity. And then it's no longer a question. Then it's his skin and my skin and the soft of the sheets and the gold of the sun, and the shadow of him clouding over me, over my better judgement. Quickly, it becomes breath and air and oxygen and I feel myself collapsing and falling, over and over and over.

We should sleep but we don't. We are quietly stunned. Smiling. And then not smiling. My skin is singing and is also on fire. His breath, accidental on my shoulder shakes my skin to spring forth its Braille: I Wanted This All Along.

I don't know what to do. Or say. In my head, when this happened, he was the instigator. I had my speeches all planned. But I have no words for walking on a Sunday morning to his house, kissing him and then pulling him into me on his bed. All my speeches were centred around him getting too close, wanting too much. I have no words for this. I want to stay, but instead I find myself slipping back into my clothes. I mumble something and leave. What Have I Done?


I've put too much sugar in my coffee. I wasn't thinking. Linus is opposite me, his hands cupped around his own coffee: black, no sugar. I can't leave the table and make a fresh drink. The recollection comes to me that hot, sweet drinks are good for shock, and this allows me to relax a little. It's only been four hours, and I can still feel him inside me. The sensation kills any regrets.

Linus says we have to talk, and he's right. But I don't know what to say. I want to recite a poem to explain myself, but the only one that comes to mind is that Benjamin Zephaniah one about food, and suddenly I'm hungrier than I've ever been before in my life.

Are We Going To Do This? He asks. And he means give it a shot, see what happens. And I nod, because I've already leapt into that one feet first, so I can hardly play the friendship card now. And I know I should be as happy as he is now. His eyes are shining, but I know it's partly tears, and I also know I caused them. He's been hurt already. Four hours in. I know this is just the tip of the iceberg, too. So I can't be happy. But I'll pretend.

(This is a chapter from a work in progress.)

Thursday, 19 July 2007

Tales from the Library: horrible

Today a horrible woman came into the library. She had heard about a book that had just come out, and she wanted it. I checked the catalogue and we didn't have it yet. We don't always get new books right away. They have to be processed and catalogued and allocated. She wouldn't let me explain this to her. She decided the library wasn't going to buy the book and she wanted to talk to whoever was in charge of buying books and force them to get it. The Dalai Lama could be the one buying our books for all I know. The books are bought by shadowy figures who hole themselves up behind stacks of old Whitaker's Almanacs. Theirs is an impenetrable fortress of dusty tomes and long-forgotten language. You can't just Give Them A Call. The ringing of the telephone would shatter their fragile eardrums, it would send them mad. And then nobody would buy the books. And slowly, the free dispersal of knowledge and mythologies would grind to a halt.

I hate it when people shout for no reason. Maybe her pit bull genes were having a bad reaction to being indoors, but still, that's no excuse for being rude. I attempted to explain to her again about new books, but she just wanted to hear her own voice. She was spouting something about the library HAVING to have this book BECAUSE IT IS SOCIALLY RELEVANT. She actually repeated this line six times. I was counting.

In the end, I told her I could fill out a request card, but until it was actually on the catalogue, there was nothing more we could do. She would simply have to wait, something she's probably never done in her whole life. (Did I mention she pushed in?) She then started on about all the money being spent on books about slavery, that it was THE BIG THING lately. Thus reducing the abolition of slavery to just some new fad that everyone was jumping on the bandwagon of.

What I wish I could have said: Excuse me, Madam, but I don't think everyone has a brother on crack. In fact, I'm sure a fair few of the patrons who frequent the libraries of this City do not even have brothers, let alone brothers on crack. So it would appear this book might not be AS SOCIALLY RELEVANT as you seem to think. If you want it that badly that you have to go into a library, ignore the information presented to you and shout yourself into a rage about it, then why not do yourself and everyone else a favour and log onto Amazon and buy it yourself. You obnoxious, racist bitch.

But I didn't get the chance. My boss intervened, reiterated what I'd tried to tell her, then asked if I'd like to go for my break. I swear we're going to have to get a punch-bag for the staffroom.


They have added 27,000 new words to the Oxford English Dictionary. Prink is one of them. I had never heard it before. There were others I had heard. They'd been spoken in bars, in rooms, even on the news. But “prink”, I had never encountered before today. It means: to dress up; decorate oneself with fine clothes or jewels; preen. I try to fit the word into my mouth, imagine how I might use it in conversation. It would have to be in context, of course. I doubt my friends are aware of this word. They are not the “prinking” kind.