Can Libraries Change?

A safe haven. Separately connected. Hidden in the shadow of feigned Greek stature, seats two but now only seats one. Supported on stilts of knowledge, times new roman hieroglyphics linked together, holding hands, bleeding ink, bleeding together, unity in pain? Unity in words and voices. Hearing voices…

They bleed together too.

 

Step step step step step, escalating feet whisked away by the sweeping wind the swirling wind that sucks noise, depositing it elsewhere.

 

The wind strikes, it delivers pain, but isn’t that what this place is all about? Pain? Or the relief of pain…a flash of pink the floral scent the relieving image—real? No. The season is grey, hands curled within coat arms, seeking a shield, a block from the world outside.

 

What better block is there than this bench? How much more hidden can one ask for? The fingers that shy away from the biting air curl into and onto each other, wrapped in knit stitches, ball together tight and secure, they seek more. They are the hands that have felt the changing of the seasons and the fragility of emotions. The fingers that wipe my nose now wiped my tears then…a familiar wet a familiar disgust a familiar embarrassment. All too familiar, this place is. But what part of familiar is a memory being relived and what part is perception taking you to elsewhere, to other,

 

Or is that just another word for the mind? The elsewhere being the world within. The grey sky being a placeholder for the blue that will soon radiate through. The broken twigs being the birthplace for the imagination to grow green buds that grow white hearts that deepen with pink and deepen with love to open with strength and share. Share that strength and that beauty.

 

This place is somehow invincible—whether because it is hidden or because it is safe or because it is unknown,

 

we don’t know.

 

 

 

 

 

For this project I returned to the place in Providence that I have continually gone for about twenty-minute increments over my three years here—it symbolizes safety, freedom, airy loneliness. Originally, I found this bench tucked behind the stairs of the Athenaeum Library while on a phone call with my (now ex-) boyfriend. An abusive partner, I did not want to be near the freshman dorms, where students filled the hallways nearly constantly, as I worried that someone would overhear the words he would say—all of which unkind. I hid among these gorgeous pink flowers that distracted me from the tears, the words, the pain. I felt what can be only described as strength, for the first time in a situation where I was stripped of all power, strength, self-love. I had a phone to my ear, but he was so far away. I was alone, but it was light, not heavy or dark, I felt free. I looked at these pink flowers and finally knew what I had to say—eyes distracted I fought back against what he was saying for the first time. I was powerful on a bench hidden under the stairs of the Athenaeum, powered behind me by books charged with the voices of women who had done the same in their time, charged with the energy of a quiet library that houses stories and humans both alive, dead, and fictional. Powerful as the Greek mythological characters, I was strong again.

 

A year later, in a support group for students who have been sexually assaulted, someone stated that there are no places to be alone on this campus anymore, that we are constantly at risk to be overheard, that crying isn’t a solitary act because people run to comfort you. My first thought was of those pink flowers, that marble looking bench, meant to seat two but that only sat me, me because being alone was being free and independent and strong. I brought up the bench and it became a place we all bonded over—our safe haven from Brown while nearly being at Brown. We would only need about 20 minutes with those pink flowers to feel completely different, regenerated.

 

So, while this place is not new to me, it is a sort of safe haven for me. And thus the topic of this project. While there were no pink flowers in this weather, just biting winds that swirled in the alcove where this bench is kept, simply sitting there brought back feelings of hope, of strength, of power—feelings that cannot be understated, that even maybe cannot be described. I struggled to find the appropriate way to discuss this place. I chose to utilize the prose above to attempt to describe that power that I do associate with my healing, with safety. I am most interested to see how this alters over the course of these 20 minute increments, and throughout the seasons as well. I tend to associate this light, summery or spring energy with this space, and even there in the darkened, windy, cold days I still felt the sun’s rays, saw the pink flowers. I am wondering about where the line between memory, sensation, and perception lies and hope to explore it further as time changes.

 

I hope that in the prose above these ideas shone through, the library of lives that gave me inspiration and strength, the flowers, the connection of memory and its connections with perception, and just the strength of the marble bench below me, how it held me up even in this cold weather. I wanted to dance the line of where my thoughts were existing versus where my physical body was existing and I hope to go deeper into this.

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