Short Story: Book Lovers

It’s quiet and dark in the library. All the books are asleep. The huge tall windows admit orange sodium lighting from the street, but the double glazing cuts out most of the noise of any traffic that passes. We pause to breathe in the silence.

We gained entrance moments ago through a side door, and walked in the calming gloom past the children’s library. Up three steps, and into the echoing high ceilinged main library where the fiction books rest after a long day.

The carpet is hard-wearing but soft underfoot, recovering from the public’s passing. The balcony of the mezzanine above us casts a shadow that drapes us in this place’s serene quiet. The computers are all switched off, the children’s toys put away. This is a library at sleep, and tolerant of us as we walk through its dreams.

Hardly daring to speak, for fear of breaking the magic of the moment, we walk slowly hand in hand among the shelves. We stop and admire some of the books, others we pass by. Our fingertips graze spines and stroke covers, seeing more as our eyes adapt to our surroundings.

We are book lovers, and in this moment that title has never felt more accurate. Hidden treasures and long-lost friends on these shelves gladden the heart and quicken the pulse.

Titles we’ve only heard of compete with newer acquaintances for our attention, and the murmurs of delight from us both threaten to break the silence. We move faster and faster through the library, up and down stairs, in and out of sections, cautious and yet carefree, gathering our favourites, old and new, until we come to the reading area, and settle down in glorious satiation, snuggling and seeking new joys to come as we glow enough to cast our own light.

My Favourite Mystery

I was rather cross the other week with non-specific elements within my organisation over some changes made to registration options for borrowers. In what probably sounded like a good idea at the time, the gender options for customer details were amended.

A new category was added to the existing Male, Female and Prefer Not To Say categories. The new category is Transgender. At first sight this might seem to be a great and progressive thing – but there’s a pretty fundamental flaw to it.

Every person I know who has been through or is in the process of transitioning identifies as their gender unless they’re trying to make a point, or clarify a complex situation. It’s pretty simple. 

The revised procedure asked for the presentation of a laminated card with the options on it so that people could point at their preferred option. I, and a healthy percentage of people in the organisation, pushed back on this. We called it a potentially embarrassing (for customers and staff) way of implementing something that nobody wants, in a way that draws attention and compromises confidentiality.

The alternative would be to, oh I don’t know, maybe ask someone how they’d like to be addressed? That way you can scoop up doctors and professors too in your honourifics. Otherwise the proposal felt like a tick box exercise in demonstrating support for diversity.

But what about gender-fluidity I hear maybe one or two of you ask? Well again, it all comes down to engaging in conversations and talking, rather than picking labels. For example, one of my partners, Mre B, has what she describes as a wibbly-wobbly approach to how she see herself. 

Mre B largely uses female pronouns through habit and making life easier in work and social contexts, but as with most things in life along the line, things get interesting and pleasantly out of the ordinary. As Warren Ellis wrote in Planetary: “It’s a weird world, let’s keep it that way.”

So we’ve adopted Mre (pronounced Mystery or Miss-tree depending on mood) rather than Lady on the blog out of a desire to acknowledge that. The fact that it makes her smile when I call her my favourite mystery is just an added bonus.

Basically, just keep talking to each other okay? We’re all weird in one way or another, and all have oddities that aren’t always obvious. It’s all part of what keeps life interesting and fun and out of the ruts in the road. Mysteries are there to be explored and understood, not reduced to labels.