[A/N: Do not do this at home.]
I’m a reader. An avid reader. No, no…a psychotically obsessed reader. Wait, no, is there something more extreme than that? Is there? Because that would be me. I guess for now you can call me Katie, the more than avid or psychotically obsessed reader.
I grew up with a dad who read to me. My favorite book? In a Dark, Dark Room by Alvin Schwartz and illustrated by Dirk Zimmer. Oh the creepy stories and fun to be had! These were my bedtime stories. Alvin Schwartz was a folklorist by trade, also having written the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark trilogy which was illustrated by Stephen Gammel.
My dad grew up being told scary stories by his dad with his many siblings. My grandfather was the best storyteller, or so I’ve been told since I never met him before he died. But yeah, he was the best. Some of my aunts say he handed it down to me, though I couldn’t vocalize a story on the spot out of a wet paper bag. At least I can write.
Anyway, I love reading. It’s my favorite thing. Being asexual, reading by far replaces sex. Being aromantic, reading far surpasses romantic relationships. Reading is as important as food to me, which is saying a lot, but second to my relationship with family and friends…only sometimes though, you know…
I read to escape situations throughout my life, and I’m sure you could find me in my elementary or middle school library during most spare time I had. During periods of bullying in elementary school, there was the Scary Stories trilogy, R.L. Stine’s short creepy books, texts on space travel, Harriet the Spy, writings about the cultures of other countries, and more.
In middle school, it was mysteries like Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Ray Bradbury’s more child-centric tales like The Halloween Tree or Something Wicked This Way Comes. I started reading German fairy tales like “The Juniper Tree”, and other forms of folklore. I also was introduced to The Hobbit, which I loved, but was never introduced to Tolkien’s entire collection. I also discovered Japanese folklore: Kwaidan by Lafcadio Hearn. Wonderful stories of yokai and yurei. His stories later influenced my interest in Asian fiction by the likes of Ryu Murakami and Natsuo Kirino.
Finally, 9th grade came. I arrived at high school. I thought maybe I’d make a few new friends, which I did. And the library…I imagined the library filled with more books than the one at the middle school, this time geared towards “adults”. I was excited to spend time there.
Unfortunately, it didn’t happen.
I’ll admit, I was the weird girl. I dressed in black. I apparently looked like a bitch but was actually a “sweetheart” according to a girl who got to know me in Spanish class. I wasn’t a very likable person until you actually talked to me. I think, due to this, access to the library was like pulling teeth. I would ask to go during class breaks, but was told, “No,” and that I needed to stay in the classroom during the break while other girls were allowed “bathroom passes” to go give their boyfriends blowjobs in the stairwell. Eventually after being told “no” too many times to count, I gave up and made weekly visits to our shitty local library. When I started getting an allowance, I would ask to go to the book store and slowly began creating a collection. [A/N: Apparently this “library ban” is an isolated incident according to my other friends]
I loved the Beats but more-so William S. Burroughs…wayyyyy more than Jack Kerouac or Allen Ginsberg. He was just so real. I remember deciphering A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (I also loved The Doctor is Sick) and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. I picked apart books of authors I couldn’t appreciate like John Steinbeck or Herman Melville, but found amazing assigned English class reading like Lord of the Flies by William Golding which led me to read Koushun Takami titled Battle Royale. We also read short tales from Edgar Allen Poe like “The Masque of the Red Death” which led me to begin reading H.P. Lovecraft on my own (starting with “The Dulwich Horror“. You can read it for free in that link).
This was me taking the fact I wasn’t allowed to go to the school’s library into my own hands. More so, this was me coping with the intense major depression and panic disorder I suffered with throughout my teenage years. I saw a psychiatrist, went on Paxil and Wellbutrin. I did therapy. Nothing really helped. But books? They were always there for me without fail. Adults failed me. Teachers failed me. My peers failed me. Books never really did (unless they were terribly written books).
My depression slowly began consuming my life. By 11th grade, it was unbearable, but I was able to graduate early if I got a tutor for the last six months of the school year. That meant I could go to college during what would have been my senior year in high school.
I liked that.
My last day was a Friday. My school counselor was putting together who would be my at home tutor, which courses I’d be taking, etc. I was dropping by her office to pick up a file, but on the way, I realized I was passing the library.
I could go downstairs and go inside, you know. I had only been in there once for 5 minutes. The only chances I could get to use the library were by going early in the morning (something I couldn’t do due to my antidepressants making it hard for me to wake up early) or stay after school (not allowed). Besides, I had come up with my own collection of books. Also, I started visiting another better library in the same district as the shitty one.
I stared through the glass which peered one story above the library, wondering, looked at my watch. I had 10 minutes before the counselor would know something was up, so I made a quick descent down the stairs and made my way inside of the library.
I signed in as Joyce Burroughs after two of my many favorite writers, Joyce Carol Oates and William S. Burroughs. I wasn’t quite sure I was doing, but the librarian assistant (a student) didn’t even check my name which was good, because I look nothing like a Joyce, I think.
I started looking through the stacks, and I saw the typical brain numbing books. Oh, and I saw Moby Dick and wanted to pull it off the shelf and throw it against a wall (my hate for Moby Dick runs old and deep I’m not evening going to give it a link.).
Soon I found Ray Bradbury. I saw they had Something Wicked This Way Comes, one of my middle school favorites. For some reason, I pulled it off the shelf to look at it. Without knowing, I grabbed Fahrenheit 451, a great read.
So, this is my justification. I was a soon to be ex-student of this school, never to walk its mold-ridden halls again. I thought, “Maybe you didn’t miss out, Katie. You didn’t need the library.” But I was so angry. Angry at the adults who failed me, who treated me like low class trash, automatically owning their mistrust of me. Angry at the students I couldn’t escape in the halls and the ones would steal shit from me. The people who abandoned me at my most depressed. What if I had no access to an outside library? What if I had no allowance money? Where would I have been? What would have happened to me?
I thought of Fahrenheit 451 and what I gleaned from it. Why have a library when only specific people are allowed to use it? You might as well burn the books.
I put both books in my messenger bag and quickly exited the library.
I made it to my counselor appointment just in time to pick up some information on my tutor. My mom picked me up an hour before the last period bell rang, ending the school day. I never went back, and I have no regrets, and I still have the books.