For the past 3 months or so, I’ve made a habit of going to the libraries near my home but I’m at the Anaheim Central Library more than the others. I tell myself that I’m going to write a thousand words and make some kind of progress towards my insane idea of writing a novel. When I do get there, I end up reading articles on Flipboard about the decaying state of Iraq and when the iPhone 6 will be released. After I’ve had my fill of news I move on to whatever novel I’m reading at the moment (currently is Then We Came To The End by Joshua Ferris). While I’m reading I am amazed by what people can do with words about normal, everyday things. Sometimes, I read On Writing by Stephen King and try to remember some of the things he writes about. Mostly, I remember how funny he is about himself and what he does. When I read stuff from Michael Chabon or Walter Mosley, I think “who do you think you are to try and write a novel like them?” But then Stephen King tells me that it’s okay to be just a good writer because greatness is so rare.
When I’m at a standstill with my writing, I look around and see who’s around. I see the usual people who are probably in here everyday from the moment the library opens to when they lock the automatic sliding doors that take too long to open when you approach them. There’s this one guy who eats tacos from Taco Bell in a small group meeting room where the Wi-Fi signal is strongest. When he’s done, he puts his head down and takes a nap. He’s to my right as I type right now. There’s another guy just outside the meeting room who has brought what looks to be half the contents of his refrigerator. He’s taking up two work desks with the following items: loaf of bread (wheat), mayonnaise, lunch meat, Tupperware containers, Snapple bottle (half-finished, strawberry-kiwi), piles of books, file folders in a paper grocery bag, and a large jacket. That table is his and most likely goes unclaimed when he is not there, which is probably rare.
When I feel like just reading, I sit at the tables in a corner that overlooks the corner of Lincoln and Harbor. The light is good and the Taco Bell aroma is absorbed by the non-fiction section before it can ever reach me. Every once in a while, there’s this older gentlemen who has a stack of political action thrillers and sci-fi novels. It’s just one stack and it reaches to the top of his head when he’s sitting. Why can’t he make two stacks and ease the distribution of weight on the table? Does he think he can go through all those books in one day? Where did he get those rainbow suspenders? Would I look good in them? I haven’t seen him in a while.
There are other regulars that I pass on my way to my regular desk at the Taco Bell meeting room. The homeless guys who sleep in the chairs by the art section, an Asian lady who sits at a desk in the middle of the room, the old married couples that sit in the room where the fiction section begins, the middle aged men who read newspapers, high school students making out. I guess they probably recognize me by now, too.
This library is a sanctuary. I think the reason I come to his library is similar to why these people come. We’re trying to escape or avoid something. Heat stroke, angry parents, unemployment, house chores, commitments, purpose, or boredom. I come here because I have to get away from the house and to keep from feeling listless. When I get home from the library, I remember that I’ll do this again tomorrow. Before the day ends, I apply for a few jobs because that’s all part of escaping, too. It’s comforting to know that I can belong to a group of people who are so different from me and from one another. I hope I remember this place and the people when I find a job. I want to remember that being lost is being in the company of great authors and people who eat fast food in small rooms.