There’s this quaint little library hidden downtown that I like to frequent. It’s no behemoth of a building with a bloated budget and beautiful architecture—more of a swollen suite with floor-to-ceiling shelves. The place can’t offer much, but what it does is utilized impressively well. I spend my spare time admiring its interior. The hardwood floors, lathered with a warm maple stain, sunbathe like napping felines in the skylights’ pointed beams. The glass door has one of those cute miniature brass bells fastened to it, announcing the arrival and departure of each and every visitor. What’s not to love? I was comfortable here until a new librarian waltzed into my cozy portrait unannounced, upsetting the equilibrium. Let’s just say things took a turn.
I found myself instantly fixated, unable to keep my eyes off her, confident her spirit was crying out for mine. There was such an infectious charm about her; every little thing she did was so inviting—her calm contentedness when dusting the shelves, accompanied by a sweeter-than-honey hum, the appreciative sniff she gave to fresh-brewed coffee before cracking open the day’s first book. The more I watched, the more I felt her aura of sheer delight.
Unfortunately, the books themselves had seen better days; their bindings were loose and decrepit, and as it goes with the orphaned elderly, visitors were few and far between. None of that mattered to her though. She loved them with every fiber of her being. Her adoration was clear with each meditative inhale of the pages, the way she ran her slender fingertips along each crooked spine, getting a feel for the book itself before stretching its covers and coaxing its secrets out. She studied books like you’d expect someone tripping on shrooms to get lost in the intricate, winding maze of their own fingerprints. I was mesmerized.
Being that this was a very modest library with low attendance rates, there was next to no work. She wasn’t bogged down with a mountain of returns to reshelve or new contributions to prep. The occasional donation came in, sure, but that’s about it. So, to pass the time, this new librarian would read aloud, breaching the place’s stale silence. Each morning, she’d pick a book at random, let the pages flutter for a moment, and start reading wherever they settled. Listening to her soon evolved into my new favorite pastime. Each reading was so evocative. She savored every word—casting each syllable like a fledgling from the nest of her painted lips. Her readings were pure performance art; the library lacked an audience, but it never stopped her from treating the display with the same gusto as Shakespeare in the Park. Her voice was a spellbinding chameleon that excelled in making swift dramatic shifts. She reintroduced life into these widely abandoned tomes, resurrecting their characters and plots if but for an hour a day.
The compulsion was irresistible. I found myself invested in her routine, tracking every endeavor as if my survival hinged on it. Though the patron interactions were seldom, she treated each with genuine care, making tailored recommendations while attentively listening to their impressions about past reads. Needless to say, she nailed it every time. No one left without a new stack of reading material and a fresh smile to bolster the rest of their day. She was all-encompassing—the walking embodiment of a grandmotherly hug; everyone found comfort in her presence. It wasn’t just that she loved books. Anyone can do that. She respected them. She understood the tremendous power they carried—how one sentence could birth an entire relationship, erupt into love or war; how a few words could spark a revolution or light the way for a passing savior. She was smart and never once underestimated them.
My habits of fascination further fed my newfound attraction. I loved to plant myself on the library’s lone lumpy love seat and lose myself in the rhythmic wave of her words. I’d sit eyes-closed, listening to the surf pound against the shore, her gentle but thoughtful voice making profound deliveries. I marveled at the therapeutic intimacy of this beautiful experience. It was so easy for me to imagine a life blooming between us…hiking while sipping steamy cappuccinos, relocating the library into a cozy bed-and-breakfast nestled in the surrounding hills, marrying this woman if only to be read to like an overeager child every night before bed. I couldn’t help but crave that next selection, that next chapter, that next sentence. I couldn’t help but crave her.
As my feelings became clear, it grew harder to just sit on them. I couldn’t hold still. I started sifting through the shelves searching for the perfect passage to convey my feelings. I couldn’t help it. I was falling, falling hard for this woman I barely knew. But her bottomless appreciation for the written word convinced me I knew everything that mattered. As far as I was concerned, there was no need to rush; the rest would surely follow. I got a glimpse of eternity in her eyes and felt the rest at my fingertips. I swore I’d pace myself.
Well, I tried. But waiting around wasn’t doing me any good. My feelings were suffocating cramped up inside me. With each passing day, I was sure the time to make my move was fast approaching. I’d never been more convinced of anything in my life. But try as I might, I could not find the perfect words. I kept at the hunt, but they evaded me like slick prey. I started highlighting my favorite passages, leaving the pages spread wide for discovery. Then I’d hide and watch wet with anticipation as she picked up each day’s miniature confession—
I’m in awe at your quiet brilliance and delicate spirit.
Got me a subtle smile.
She couldn’t help it. She felt the urgency to disclose the contents of her heart. She couldn’t resist it. All her love leaked out.
The librarian looked around, finding nothing but books.
The time for confessing had come. She confronted her love and made a passionate display. Maybe it was foolish too. Her feelings weren’t concerned with their reception though. They needed release. Expression. A voice.
What I wanted was for these words to carry my emotions, to deliver these meticulously gift-wrapped bundles to her heart’s anticipatory doorstep. I longed for her to clutch each book and hold it to her chest, absorbing its sweet sentiment.
But things didn’t pan out as I hoped.
Instead, and much to my chagrin, she started to look frightened. Disturbed. Instead of love, a look of unease consumed her face. It caught me by total surprise.
At this point, I was in deep. I needed her and didn’t know how to guarantee I got her. My affections continued despite her face not mirroring the interest plastered on mine. I pushed it too far. The landslide was already hurtling down the mountain. There was no stopping it now.
I had to kill her.
Oh, did I forget to mention? Some decades ago (I stopped counting), I collapsed in this very library. What I assumed would be a quick visit turned into an eternity of browsing through these congested shelves. I’ve been dead, tethered to this spot for as long as I can remember now.
Really though, enough about my backstory. I can’t shake this compulsion. I just need to iron out the logistics. With an absurd amount of strain, I’ve managed to interact with the books, but I can only muster the strength for one at a time. So far, that’s it. Maybe if I drop an encyclopedia from above…or maybe I can lock her in the bathroom somehow, let time do its thing. My scheme may not be consummated yet, but I can assure you I won’t be letting her go. I can’t. I’ve never experienced a love so fast and so pure. Maybe the whole not-having-a-body is to blame, but the attraction was never physical. It’s our mutual love of books that makes me blackout drunk in love. Mark my words, I’ll find a way to trap her heart. Get her on my side. She’ll soon receive an irrefusable invitation to partake in my afterlife. And when I prevail, our eyes will meet at long last, and it’ll be my turn to tell her a story—this tale of triumph. I can’t wait to see the look on her face.
Abbie Doll is an eclectic mess of a person who loves exploring the beautiful intricacies of the written word. She resides in Columbus, OH and received her MFA from Lindenwood University; her work has been featured in Cathexis Northwest Press, The Rush, OPEN: Journal of Arts & Letters (O:JA&L), among others. Follow her on Twitter (@AbbieDollWrites) and Instagram (@AbbieDollWrites).