My first memory of my local library was of its immensity; books neatly arranged endlessly upward, the shadows between the shelves, the rows and rows of bookcases, the whispers of paper wrapped around whispering voices and …the women. At the end of each school day, my female classmates flowed in different directions. Some went to play sports or to cheer on the school teams while others went to the mall, but the stream of women that most interested me ended up at the library. It is no wonder this is where I met my first love.
I was winding through the library’s maze looking at the women when I heard a voice that called to me like a siren. It beguiled me, and so enticed, I sought out the voice. When I found it in the history section, I was astounded. There stood a woman of such beauty she seemed to sparkle. She wore robes woven of gold and silver threads and dripping with jewels. her skin was the darkest tan, unlike any I had ever seen. I couldn’t look away from her almond brown eyes, so large that a man could get lost in them.
“Do you know who I am?” she whispered? I shook my head. “I am Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.” She raised her chin when she said Egypt, as if she expected me to know her. “Great men have loved me in the past — men like Julius Caesar and Mark Anthony.”
I spoke not a word, but as the great men in her time did, I took her in my arms. My hands trembled as I held her. Her perfume was exotic and yet so familiar — hard to describe — like an old friend. Her skin was soft. The seduction was complete; I fell instantly in love. As I drank in her beauty and her scent, her shape changed, and I found myself holding a book, The Early History of Rome by Livy.
As I escorted her to the front desk, I heard another voice, cold and scared, say, “You will never love another like you love her, your first love.”
The hair on my neck stood up. I stopped and turned to see another woman standing before me. She was not beautiful, like Cleopatra, but haggard. She wore a long dress that dragged on the floor with sleeves that hung down below her fingers. Long hair hung around her neck like a serpent. A tall, black hat hid her face from me. “How…how do you know?”
She lifted one hand and pointed a gnarly finger at my chest. “Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more.” She lifted her large, red eyes and stared into mine. A force beyond description pulled me toward her. Resistance was futile; I fell into her arms. My body shook as she held me. Her skin was cold and clammy with an odor of rotting fish. I was helpless, trapped. Her shape transformed, and I found myself holding the play, Macbeth. Again, the seduction was complete; I fell in love with Shakespeare.
At first, I was overjoyed. Then I realized I found these books by chance, or rather, they called out to me. How would I ever find more? What was I to do? Was it possible to have two loves? With a lady under each arm, I made my way to the front desk. The librarian informed me that the library online web site had a listing of all the books in the library. It was like Match.com for bibliophiles. She said that I could look at several books quickly, similar to speed dating. When I selected a book, I could reserve it, and it would meet me at the library when I was ready.
I could not believe my ears. Why hadn’t I discovered this sooner? Where has this system been all my life? It was a match made in heaven. I think that if I already didn’t have two love affairs going on, I would have asked the librarian to marry me on the spot.
That is how I met my first love and my second love at the library.
Monte Anderson is a local writer. To read more of his work, visit his blog at https://monteranderson.wordpress.com/