I am in the midst of bookshelves, tall ones, little ones, they fold into each other, they cover the many rooms around me in a maze like profusion, they make spirals that end in little alcoves where skinny dry men sit reading large bulky tomes of ancient knowledge and little boys tug at the breaking corners of old comic books. The dry men chew on a white gelatinous substance while they read, every so often looking up to scan the space around then, then diving back into the books. The little boys lick at little black pebbles as they let their greasy hands run over the already damaged pages.
The books on the shelves are of many sizes, many colors, many styles. There are whole shelves full of small paperbacks, with bright colored covers. Women in trouble, half naked, tied down, in the grips of evil. Men running to save them. Guns out. Swords at the ready. Laser guns blasting. A rescue that’s about to happen, but that never comes. There are other shelves covered with magazines. Old, faded magazines full of notices, of summarized stories and unfinished tidbits. New magazines with bright photos on their covers, of unreal, sharply etched young people, shining with the glow of fame and fortune. There are large thick books full of strange diagrams and warnings in many languages. There are books that are flat and wide, full of photographs and paintings, one after another, each page an entire world to discover. There are hardcover textbooks, with their careful lessons and questions at the end, little red notes made by someone long ago, references to homework, to old thoughts and girlfriends. There are handwritten diaries that are falling apart at the seams, the pages losing their sequence, creating new complex chains of cause and effect, death bringing timeless freedom to a forgotten life.
An old man walks among the shelves. He is bald, walks hunched over, his stomach portruding before him, his chest covered by a disheveled white beard. He wears a black overcoat which extends all the ways to his knees. It flies like a cape behind him as he walks. Underneath, he wears loose pajama pants and a white tshirt. His eyes wince and his mouth curls upwards slightly every so often, and every now and then, a loud exhalation leaves his mouth. The exhaled air is heavy and full of the dust that covers the shelves. His hands land on one book and another. Placing one in a different section within its shelf, removing one and taking it to a completely different shelf, sometimes placing a large one on a flat table, opening it to a certain page and leaving it there. He writes little notes and places them inside books, little sticky papers with strange clues waiting to be deciphered, but now lost in the midst of an ocean of other pages full of other writings.
A younger man in dark brown clothing talks loudly. He explains the nature of construction to a man that nods only partly consciously. As he hungrily explains in detail, his hands move back and forth, punctuating his exclamations with invisible shapes in the almost visible clouds of dust that linger over the entire room. In a place that smells like mold, he smells of something alien, a touch of swamp and dying flowers. His voice raises, then comes back down, then rises again, a rhytmic melody that flies around mathematical statements and practical instructions.
The old man walks by him and nods his head in acknowledgement. He has done this a million times and will do it a million times again, and after that door, there will be another room full of shelves and books and skinny dry men and little boys… and a man talking loudly of distinct and detailed knowledge and the old man will change the placement of some books, place some of them out and leave some notes behind and go on to the next. As I sit in this room, I wait for the next old man to walk by.