"A room without books is like a body without a soul"
-Marcus Tulus Cicero
To be honest, I have no problems working in the library. For starters, it is one of the few places in the country where there are still physical books. For a decade now, reading has suffered a slow and torturous death and fewer and fewer books are published every year, most of which are only an offense to the literary art. It's depressing to contemplate the spectacle that has slowly been unfolding in front of me. People stuck to their phones at all times, watching stupid videos and playing absurd video games. They walk all their days stuck in those little devices, lost in an ocean of stupid, mass produced and cheap entretainment. They have decided to reject the magic of reading. Since I can remember reading has been my only great passion, but apparently now I am the only one who still cares about it.
Second, it is the only place where I can be alone with my books. I don't have to be forced to spend my days with people coming and going all the time as in other jobs. I don't have to put up with angry clients, annoying co-workers or heartless bosses whose only task in life seems to make the lives of those under their control as miserable as possible. Most of the time there is me and only me in the library, with all the books at my disposal. I can read hour after hour without any hassle, without people looking at me like a monster for simply not being like them. In my personal opinion, there is no better pleasure than that. Occasionally someone will come and observe the books or just come to bother me, but the rest of the time is only for me to immerse myself in those fantastic worlds that await me buried in ink and paper.
And finally, you could say that it is the only place where I truly feel that I fit. Since I can remember the only place where I feel truly accepted is the library. Regardless of the time or day, I would be there, just reading non-stop. For me, the library is a place where I could be myself. I moved away from the hardships of daily living, I could be in a state of uninterrupted peace. I am normally a very pessimistic and quiet person,continuously looking at the ground, but when I read it is one of the few and brief moments in which I feel genuinely happy. That and that the salary they give me is enough to survive in the midst of the disaster that is this city.
I have worked as a bookkeeper for almost ten years and I can clearly say that they have probably been the best years of my brief existence. It seems yesterday when the last book keeper gave me the job and then disappeared in the middle of the night talking about a manuscript that had disappeared and how it would go until the end of the world to finally find it. Most of that time I have spent reading. From Cervantes to Orwell, I've read them all. I have even read huge volumes of books with titles such as 'extensive study of the effect of gas emissions from the agroindustrial machinery of urban centers in the outer layers of the atmosphere'. In fact, I don't think there are any books on those shelves whose pages I have not read or at least leafed through. It could also be said that I know perfectly the facilities of the library. After so much time of going and coming through the enormous place I know it like the palm of my own hand. I know the location of each book, on each shelf of each drawer. I know this place better than myself.
But not too long ago, I noticed something strange. At the beginning it took me some time to realize what was happening. I thought that I had been wrong in something or that suddenly I hadn't noticed it the many times I had passed through that place. But slowly I approached the realization that I had not been mistaken or ignored that little fact. There really was a new book in the middle of the shelves. It was a strange occurrence due to a large number of factors. First of all, they always tell me when a new book is added to the catalog. The reason for this is that I am the one who has to sign the receipt saying that they gave me that copy and I have to save it in its corresponding section, entering all its corresponding data within the system. Second, it could not have just appeared in the blink of an eye, like a ghostly apparition. Someone must have brought him and put him in that exact place. Possibly it was not a book from the library, but one of the few readers who still came to this sanctuary in danger of extinction has abandoned it as a father to his son. But would it be possible for someone to have been able to forget something as precious as a book? And finally, it turns out that that volume was possibly one of the strangest I've seen. It was a manuscript of about 200 pages, quite short in standards to what I am used to reading, covered by thick black leather covers without any information about what I had hidden among its pages. Within its leaves, there was no title or author. The story just started, just like that.
Confused by my most recent discovery, I grabbed it and began methodically to read it. I found it just at the moment when I had begun to read a new volume of one of those monstrously long universal encyclopedias. I was already in volume thirty-seven, about 500 pages devoted to listing all kinds of terminology for the study of meteorology, although I decided to leave aside while this new story began. And speaking sincerely, no other book had trapped me as much as this one did. From the first line I did not feel able to stop reading. I didn't want to stop reading. I was completely immersed in the characters, the plot, the style. I even came to commit the unforgivable sin of underlining every sentence in the book that was worth keeping. Never before had something similar happened to me with a text. It was excellent ... no, it was perfect.
A summary of it, what would really be to mutilate that beautiful story in just a couple of paragraphs, the book was about life and times an old and lonely librarian who spent his days reading and rereading the classics he had in his bookstore. The days passed without any kind of surprise until one day he found an old book, one he had never seen in all his years of reading, without any information about what it was. He starts reading and a couple of pages later he can't stop. It becomes his obsession to finish it and just after reading it and saving it, it disappears again as mysteriously as it had appeared. It was not a long book or filled with complicated prose, like a Faulkner or a Pynchon, but it still was so simple, but at the same time so complex that it defeated all the classics that lived in the thousands of bookshelves that surrounded me in a single anonymous blow.
It only took me a couple of hours to read it. I had never been so quick with a book. The writer's ability to trap the reader in such banal events as cleaning or eating had made reading so entertaining as well as quick. He truly was an excellent storyteller. I wish I had known, even if it was only the writer's name to look for more of his works, if he had any. What I really love about a book when you feel that the author speaks directly to you. When through words this stranger is able to reach the darkest of your soul. It is a strange sensation that books like these cause me, books that are capable of changing our way of seeing the world. They are few, but in spite of that, we keep them in a sacred altar inside our mind and soul no matter what happens for the rest of our days.
It was a night just before I went to my small and miserable apartment when I finally got to the last sentence. I remember keeping it on the same shelf where it had appeared for the first time, with a strange mixture of melancholy and happiness while returning that otstanding work of art to its place. It was the last thing I did before locking the entire library with padlock. But strangely the next day when I entered to the local, I was not able to find it again. No matter how much I looked for it, I didn't see it again. Ironically, as mysteriously as it had appeared, it had disappeared. As a madman I searched through the hundreds of shelves that were in that place. I searched online for several of the sentences I had stuck in my mind days after I finished it. I read and read again several books trying to find some indication of the mysterious manuscript and its mysterious novelist. Basically I destroyed and rebuilt the premises from the ashes, but no matter how hard I searched, I was never close to solving that mystery that keeps me awake at night.
It's been almost six years since I closed that story for the last time. I am forced to admit that, during those years, I have almost gone crazy immersed in that seemingly endless search. My step has become heavy, my face pale and dirty, my body thin, my hair gray and tangled. I haven't been able to find again some kind of value in the novels that I liked so much before. Now I only find them as mere unflavored copies of that fateful lost book. I have tried to find that passion in literature that left me so long ago. I suffer every day, everything I had ever loved I find today nothing more than disgusting. Surrounded by a garbage that I used to love. I have even thought about writing in a certain way what I remember about the story. I don't intend to do so much for a commercial purpose or professional- after all, I'm not as good a writer as I'd like to admit -but to finally take that terrible burden off of me. It would be in a way like a relief to that overwhelming desire that is in my mind.
Little by little, what was written on those pages has been erasing from my memory until nowadays only a few words have remained in my mind. Dissipated among the dozens of pages there were, few and far between. Slowly they are still disappearing until I am left with only a vague memory of what I read with a sense of imaginable loss attached to that vague memory. But no matter how much time passes, there is still a phrase that has been impregnated in my brain. A short phrase that encapsulates everything I have ever felt. A phrase that perfectly shows what has been of my life. A phrase that has tormented and fascinated me for so long
"Reading is one of the loneliest acts that exist, but we read in a certain way to feel accepted and less alone in this paradoxical universe in which we live."