Wandering and Aimless Musings
On reflections, and libraries, and reflections in libraries.
Sometimes I find myself wandering aimlessly, without motive, direction, or destination anchoring me to reality. Time is — always has been? — a blur. Weekdays of toil on insufficient sleep bleed into weekends of neon lights, fiery drinks, haunted subway rides at ungodly hours of the night. The few times I catch myself peering into the mirror for longer than a few moments, I’m startled by the face that stares back. Black, restless spheres, more sunken and frazzled than they appeared a few months ago, meet my gaze; they’re tainted with excitement, fatigue, a hint of disorientation. They slowly scrutinize the rest of me, the features that always struck me as extraordinarily plain — the flat, straight hair, the undefined cheekbones, the pale lips. She strikes me as lost, the girl whose eyes bore into my skull, as someone who, despite having existed for nearly 22 years of life, doesn’t really know who she is.
On these kinds of walks, my feet unconsciously steer me to the spaces where I feel safest. Even in cities as relentless and overwhelming as New York City, public libraries are golden pockets of safety, of quiet — hidden sanctuaries where you don’t have to act or look a certain way, you simply can just exist without falling under the looming scythe of judgmental eyes. The clamor of shrieking cars and pedestrian hubbub slowly melts away into the delicate hum of students typing with unmatched fervor and pages being flipped hastily by hungry readers. I find comfort in the mountains of dusty, well-worn book covers that encompass me like a baby in a womb, surrounding me with all of their secrets and their potential to lead me away from my chaotic reality into other, deeper, mystical places. A temporary asylum from the world. I can’t help but wonder if it’s bravery, or cowardice, that leads me to seek these spaces. Am I running from what’s outside, afraid to confront reality, like a small child afraid of rejection? Or is it cowardice to flee from places where one is forced to think, to reflect, surrounded by nothing but century-old books and her own agonizing thoughts?
Regardless, I don’t mind that the tranquility of a library amplifies my thoughts, which inevitably soak through the silence and the muffled whispers of strangers around me. Thinking, what a concept? The most basic human act, the act that distinguishes us from monkeys and dolphins and the like. Yet it seems impossible to come by these days. We’re rushing, us twenty-something year olds, desperate to be doing as much as we can before something, anything, robs us of that very ability. We’ll think when we’re old, we say as we take another shot, the fierce sting of cheap vodka making its way down our throats, kindling a sort of warmth that spreads across your entire body all the way to your toes and fills you with a cheapened sensation of vitality. And I suppose it’s not all that wrong — I mean, what stories would you tell your grandchildren if you spent your entire youth in passivity, never doing, never living?
I suppose there has to be a balance. Maybe, flanked by a sea of books in safe, complete anonymity, is where I can find a kernel of equilibrium, something that feels more and more unattainable in streets where my thoughts are all but drowned out and leaked into the sewage water.