The Library Book Project – 23 August 2013

Obviously, this stamp was the date on which I was meant to return the book by. Don’t worry, I don’t still have it! I returned it a couple of weeks ago, but I was reluctant to hand it over without even trying to let someone know why this particular book was kind of special (to me, at least). So, I wrote a note explaining what I had done, and tucked it inside the plastic cover. ImageThe likelihood is that one of the library workers noticed it when checking it back in, thought, “Who is this crazy person?” and threw it away. But, I like to think that maybe the next person to pick it up will take out the note, read it, and think, “Oh, that’s kind of cool.” And then they will take it home and be part of this exclusive club of people who borrowed this exact book, and who will probably never meet each other.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t actually count how many stamps there were before starting this project. I just thought it didn’t look like a lot, and that it would be over with quite quickly. It turned out to be a bit more work than I imagined, but it was definitely worth it. I really enjoyed thinking about the different kinds of people who might have picked this book up, and what their problems might be.

I guess I did project a lot of my own reasons for going to the library onto the characters. My housemates were/are busy working most of the time, I had just finished NaNoWriMo, my friends from uni are back in their home countries. I still had another two months to go before going back to uni. I felt a bit lonely and purposeless. The library was just somewhere to go, a reason to get out of the house.

I’d really love to know what you thought overall of the project, so please comment, get in touch, something like that. You can find all twenty stories by clicking “The Library Book.” in the Categories list to the left of this page, or alternatively, you can go to the intro page and look through the pingbacks in the comments section.

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The Library Book Project – 23 February 2013

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It’s funny how some words on a little screen can cause pain like real punches. I have to sit down, winded, and fight the instinct to cry. Yet, I invite these words in, I carry around my phone in my pocket, a little portal through which people can injure me at any time. Of course, only a few weeks ago, it was our connection. The tone it played when it received a message gave me thrills, and I’d leap across my bedroom so I could read the message you’d sent.

In those first few days, the communication was incessant. There were messages from you well into the night, and your words were the first I would read in the morning. You’d continually joke about my clumsiness. That was how we met, after all. When those books spilled to the floor, my face turned crimson with mortification. You were the only one around who didn’t give me a filthy stare. Instead, you smiled sympathetically and waited around for me to check my book out. We started talking, and couldn’t stop, so we exchanged numbers.

After a week or so, I’d be anxiously checking my phone every half an hour to see if you’d responded to my texts. Your responses were slow, half-hearted, sluggish and with none of your previous wit, like you weren’t paying attention anymore. I wondered what I’d done wrong, and fought the desire to text you back straight away when you did eventually send me something, ashamed of my eagerness.

You added me on Facebook at one point, and my heart rose, thinking this was a sign your interest in me was picking up again. There were a few good conversations, and you suggested we meet up. I laughed at myself then, about how worried I’d been about some stupid text messages. I remember how I felt when you kissed me. I smiled for the entire afternoon, and I really thought this would last.

I was surprised, hurt, and maybe a little angry when you didn’t reply to any of my messages after that. I couldn’t figure out what you wanted. If you weren’t interested then you shouldn’t pretend that you are. I told myself that was it, that it was the end of our small whatever-it-was, emphasis on the word small. I was a person, I had a life, and you didn’t just mess someone around like that.

It didn’t prepare me for when I was browsing Facebook on my phone, and I saw that you were in a relationship with someone else. Hurt, confusion and depression weigh me down as I walk back to the library. I post the borrowed book through the return point. I do it hurriedly, because it upsets me to think that the book has been in my life for longer than you.

The Library Book Project – 12 January 2011

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The clouds lay low and heavy over the skyline, their shades of gray just as grim as the concrete monstrosities that rise above the slate rooftops. If I stare for too long at the horizon, the icy air causes my eyes to tear up. I tell myself that my lethargy is due to the long break, but I don’t recall feeling this tired after my first day back last year. The atmosphere feels so cold, it’s like the air is thicker and harder to walk through. My legs complain and refuse to be forgotten as I get closer to home.

The house is warmer than outside and my fingers begin to itch and swell after a few minutes, even though I wore gloves. The smell of last night’s takeaway flirts with my nostrils, and I would open a window if it wouldn’t let all the warm air out. My first act is to sit on the couch, but resting only seems to accentuate the soreness of my joints. Unfortunately, getting up requires more energy than I am willing to part with.

I tell myself that I am mentally preparing. The fact is, it is only a little after 3 in the afternoon, and there are many things that I am meant to be doing. The kitchen needs a wipe down, the bins need taking out and there is a pile of washing up by the sink. The stale sheets on my bed would be an affront to any proud housekeeper. The laundry pile spills out across dirty carpet. If I manage these things, I will feel better.

I pull myself up and decide to tackle the bedroom first. The washing machine can do its work while I clean the kitchen, but first I need to strip the bed. I try not to think about anything as I do it, making my movements as robotic as possible. I can’t afford to pause or I won’t start again. When taking my pillows off the bed, a book falls onto the floor.

It’s the library book I took out weeks ago. I flick to the front page, dreading what I’m about to see. The book is due to be returned tomorrow. I look at the date stamp, feeling defeated, before placing it on the desk. I know that I will want to traipse to the library tomorrow afternoon even less than I want to today. As inconsiderate as it may be, I’d rather pay the fine.

The Library Book Project – 5 August 2010

To read more about the library book project, click here.

I’m going on a diet. Right now. Seriously, what is all this? I’m soft and white all over. It’s the crap food I eat all the time. I went to the kebab shop yesterday and they layer all the meat over your fries. They absorb all the leaking fat, leaving you with heavy, greasy carbohydrate that tastes good but feels very bad. They turn to rock overnight in your belly. I press my hand against my stomach and grimace at the mirror.

I pick up my book and head into the bathroom, anticipating that I may be in there for some time. I wonder if it’s kind of gross that I’m taking a borrowed library book to read on the toilet. Nyaah. It’s not like I’m wiping my ass with it. I find myself slightly distracted from the words as the muscles in my gut clench painfully around my intestines.

I breathe and rest my forehead against the pages. After this I’ll go to the supermarket and buy fresh fruit, vegetables and all the other things that are meant to be good for you. I put down Then We Came To The End and wash my hands thoroughly. The towel is missing so I have to wipe my hands on my jeans before picking the book back up.

I’ll go to the supermarket and buy those things. But I’ll just finish this book first…

The Library Book Project – 23 November 2009

To read more about this project, click here.

Today, this company will lose a major asset. I open the top drawer of my desk, revealing reams of printed paper that are dated between yesterday and and five years ago. No, surely I must have cleaned out this drawer since I first moved into this office? I suppose I always had far better things to do. I was a busy woman, constantly managing and advising the junior staff, who always seem so much more clueless than I was at their ages. They’re not completely incompetent, but they can’t back up their own egotistical bluster.

Amongst the stream of fury, I feel a small amount of relief that I’m not obliged to clear out all these documents. Most of them could probably go in the bin, but I’ve always erred on the side of caution, which is why the second drawer down is equally full. In fact, all four drawers contain nothing but pages which now have no relevance or importance to me. It’s liberating and soul-destroying all at the same time.

At first they wanted me to reduce my hours. That conversation left me with a sour taste in my mouth. It was sickly, sugary lines from a man half my age. Made me almost long for the days when sexism was rampant, but at least the man (it was almost always a man) in charge didn’t bullshit you and pretend that everything was for your own good.

I vowed not to let it set me back. I joined the gym. Even though I can afford books, I frequented the library because I couldn’t think of any more excuses to go outside. I ended up drinking wine on the evenings and watching box sets of my favorite televisions shows. When I retired to bed I’d still be wide awake, wondering what I’d done wrong, and why they wanted less of me rather than more. Hadn’t I proved myself invaluable?

Soon, my colleagues will come into the office and present me with a card and some flowers, congratulating me on my early retirement. None of them will look me in the eye. Tomorrow, I will be the main course on the cafeteria gossip menu.

The Library Book Project – 27 June 2008

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I sit on a bench and breathe in the damp air. The sound of rain hitting my umbrella becomes grating. It adds a drumbeat to my anger. I want to stand up again, but my energy is fading as my emotions rise, causing this pent-up feeling, a tightness in my chest, a build-up of fury in this frail body. I thought I was over this. My friends all commended me on how well I’d handled things. They said I’d risen above it all, but I felt like I’d been buried in an early grave.

What choice did I have, really? I guess I could have shouted, and screamed, cut up his clothes and given away his possessions. I knew that none of those things would hurt him in the same way that he’d hurt me. All I had was his guilt, and I knew those actions would assuage it. It’s not that I enjoy playing the victim, but I hoped he thought of me at least occasionally, and that those thoughts tainted his new life.

I have a new life too, but it’s in an old setting. What’s familiar to me is unfriendly. Until the divorce goes through, it’s difficult to sell the house. Those rooms are minefields unless I drown out all the thoughts with noise, whether from the television or the radio. When I’m not at work, I watch programme after programme. All those reality TV shows he used to hate; I turn up the volume and immerse myself in other people’s lives and problems. My unhappiness is numbed and abated until it’s time to turn off the TV and go to bed.

It’s difficult to sleep, so I read until my head feels heavy. Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night. Being alone hurts like toothache. I roll between the sheets, trying to shake off the pain. I must get at least some sleep, because the alarm clock always jerks me into consciousness, reminding me that life goes on as normal and that my misery is inconsequential to everyone else. I have to get ready for work.

I sold the car to make ends meet, so now I travel by bus. Observing public transport etiquette, I studiously keep my eyes on my book (borrowed from the local library, actually supporting authors comes second to being able to afford food,) to avoid catching the gaze of another passenger. Sometimes this makes me feel a little sick, so I look out of the window and watch the world go by, wondering how many people out there are hurting just like me.

Taking Back The Crown: Part Four

“I saw him chasing you last night through my window. I was surprised when I saw you defend yourself.” Seta began. They were kneeling in front of a wooden table, in the same room she’d woken up in. The futon had been packed away. The walls were very bare and, although Sonya had a cushion, the wooden floor was hard on her knees. Seta poured her some tea, but she didn’t drink it.

 “Females here don’t have magic.” Sonya remembered this from her lessons. It was a strange idea to her, since she came from a family where only the first born female inherits power. However, there were an equal number of male and female magicians across Litia. Her family was unique in its inheritance pattern.

 “No. Where are you from? Litia? The Sprite World?” he asked.

  “Where is this place?” she asked, avoiding his question. If he knew about Litia, then he would probably know about her family, the so-called Litian Royalty.

 “I believe outside worlds call this Natetern.” Sonya had known this from doing her exercises. These people must have really taken pity on her. Natetics were not usually so welcoming of strangers. At least, that’s what she’d been taught. “This area is a training ground for Natetic magicians. Who was the man I killed?”

 “He was someone I knew. I don’t know why he attacked me. I was waiting for my mother.” she answered, truthfully.

 “When did you last see your mother?” Seta gently probed.

 “She brought me here. It’s not safe where I’m from. She told me not to go back without her.” Sonya quickly explained. Surely this information wasn’t dangerous to give him? Seta narrowed his eyes. He looked almost like an elderly man when his eyes wrinkled up, though his stature and normal face suggested he couldn’t be more than twenty five.

“I see. Our elders, the men who run this place, say you may stay here for as long as you need to.”