There’s a special secret hidden place in the library at my school.
My best friend told me about it before she graduated, before she moved away to England.
To get to the hidden place, you leave the first floor of the library to go up the stairs and cross to the right through the tables and the uncomfortable wooden chairs and the soft padded chairs that it’s impossible to do homework and stay awake in, and you enter the forest of bookshelves. You walk through the bookshelves all the way till it looks like you’re at the edge of the building, till the rustling of pages and the gentle flirting of students and the clicking of pens fades behind you into nothingness, and just when you think you’ll never find the hidden place, the wall opens out more, just in the back corner, and there are more bookshelves. And if you walk past them, very quietly so no one follows you, you can see the hidden place tucked away in the very, very top back corner of the library.
It’s just a little ugly wooden desk in the corner all by itself, hidden away in the back corner behind the last of the bookshelves, with a misplaced-looking antique lamp that’s actually rather pretty on top and an ugly gray swivel-chair to go with the ugliness of the wooden desk. But the afternoon light comes drifting down soft and mellow and burnished gold through the bookshelves and touches that hidden place with magic, and somehow the ugly gray swivel chair doesn’t look ugly anymore. And you can go sit in it and lay down your heavy book-bag and pull on the chain of the lamp, and an amber-honey glow lights up the desk and touches your face and makes you glad to be alive.
It’s quiet there. So quiet. But a good kind of quiet.
It’s not the silence that rings in your car when you’re driving home from finding out you didn’t make the cast list. It’s not the silence that yawns around you when you finally realize that a friend has betrayed you, made you look like a fool. It’s not the silence that sinks in the pit of your stomach when you’re alone in your room and hungry and miserable but you won’t eat because you’re starving on purpose.
This quiet isn’t empty. It’s a quiet filled with the silent voices of all the books keeping you company on the shelves. It’s a quiet filled with the scent of their book glue, old and safe and sweet in the air, and with the sights of the book-spines in leathery gold-embossed straight rows, begging for you to trace your fingers softly across them.
And you can sit at that desk and pull your brown sweater closer around you and open your thick hardbound anthologies and be glad there’s such a thing as required reading. And even your annoying little paperback textbooks that you don’t care about and wish you hadn’t had to buy, seem a little more worth your while.
And every once in a while, if you lose yourself far enough, you can feel for one moment like you’re in England.
Or every once in a very, very long while, if you’re very lucky and if the light falls just the right way and the books with their silent book-voices are in just the right mood, you can think for an instant that you’ve made it into a faerie-tale.