I hadn’t been up the brick steps and through the glass doors of the community library in years. I had moved to distant suburbs and then to a distant city. But now, walking into the building to attend a function, I remembered my 15-yearold self.
Back then it was my older brother or my older sister who called the shots. It was only if they had the inclination that one or both would announce: “We’re going to the library. If you want to come, we’re going now.” I would scurry around gathering up my scattered library books and, with the engine running, I’d pile into the back seat of my brother’s Volkswagen Beetle or my sister’s yellow Cortina and we’d be off.
I would sit there on the cracked vinyl seats with a pile of books on my lap, shuffling through and deciding which I could bear to part with and which ones I desperately needed to hold on to. My little sister next to me had no such dilemma. She changed all the books every time we went to the library, whether she’d looked at any of them or not.
In the library carpark we would spill out and charge up the steps and in through the glass doors. Then we would disperse. My older sister headed straight to the fiction section, where she stocked up on popular novels such as Go Ask Alice or Rosemary’s Baby, which she would devour in just a few days.
My brother browsed the DIY section to find instructional books, such as how to build electric circuits or how to plug a radiator leak.
My younger sister was an omnivore. She would weave in and out of the shelves, picking up whatever caught her eye, and usually came away with a mix of books that spanned subjects from macrame to Robinson Crusoe.
I would go to the 130s section, which was at the far end of the library where no one else usually ventured. Kneeling on the carpeted floor, I would lay out my selection in a semicircle around me — maybe eight or 10. A translation of Richard Wilhelm’s seminal I Ching — How to Make Your Own Horoscope, complete with pages and pages of planetary charts; the beautifully illustrated Tarot for Beginners: Divination by Numbers; the colourful Seeing Auras and others. Then I would choose my four-book quota. I might not have wanted to give up Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs for the third week running, so I might have a choice of only three new books.
I would be completely under the spell of these books. If I could unlock the secrets they contained between their covers, I might reach a higher plane of understanding.
I might find something unique in myself, a special talent or power. I might, for a short time anyway, escape the mundane, prosaic world in which I lived.
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