Come Saturday, I was on my way. The ticket to Observatory, a return, cost R18. Quite a lot, but I figured this was important.
The author had given me his book, in person: this was a sign I should read his other books. I had to.
As I was walking up the road from the station, the library was on the left. It was next to a kung-fu studio.
It was kind of dark inside, but not unfriendly. Most of all, it was beautifully quiet. Coming into a library is like coming into a church – everyone is silent out of respect.
Of course, you hear distant whispering and low-volume voices, but people definitely keep their voices down in a library, out of respect for others who might be reading.
I had written the Dewey number on my hand so I’d be able to find the book when I got there.
And there it was. I took it gently from the shelf.
Another thing I like about libraries is that they literally expect you to sit down and read. So there are always loads of chairs. I found a particularly nice one in a ray of dim sunshine in an empty room.
I wolfed the book down in one gulp. We’ve all done it with food when we’re hungry. And I did it with this book of poems.
I was hungry.
Hungry for poetry.
I read it in a trance.
It was so powerful.
Every time he introduced an image, I marvelled at his skill.
Once I’d finished (there were 22 poems), I went back and found the ones I liked the best and re-read them, slowly.
Next thing, 45 minutes had passed. I put the book back where I found it.
I was looking at the little leaflet of library times at the front counter when I noticed a colourful book on a trolley close to me. I moved closer and turned it so that I could see the cover. It was a Tintin series hardcover comic book!
I love Tintin. I love how beautifully it’s drawn, with each frame flowing into the next. I think it’s clever, and very readable. I’ve only ever read one.
I hadn’t read this one. On the cover was Tintin on a weird island, next to a giant mushroom, a pistol in his hand, as he looked around in alarm.
“Are you taking that out?”
I looked up to find I was being addressed by a young woman. Her name was pinned to her jersey: Neliswa. She spoke in a friendly way.
“Oh, no, I mean … I don’t have a library card.”
“Would you like to get one?”
“Um … what does it cost?”
“R35, and a copy of your ID.”
“Oh … I didn’t bring my ID …”
I also didn’t have R35, but I didn’t tell her.
“Oh, well, maybe next time. That Tintin you’re looking at?”
“We have about 20. In fact, we have quite a few comic series. We have Asterix too.”
“I’m actually more into literature.”
Her eyes widened and she laughed a subtle laugh.
“Uh, okay, well, good! Well, you’re at the right place.”
“I feel so too,” I said, and she laughed again. “Goodbye.”
“Bye!” she said cheerfully.
I exited via the metal turnstile. As I walked through the short foyer I noticed a stack of books on a table. Above it was a printed sign that said ‘SALE’.
A number of novels were lined up. I saw the sequel to Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code there. It’s called Angels and Demons.
But then on the second shelf was a section called ‘FREE’.
I took a step closer.
British Dogs, was the title of one. Herbs for Every Season was another. Cave Systems of the Western Cape, was a third.
I re-entered the library.
“Hi again,” said Neliswa. “Forget something?”
“The books under ‘Free’ outside,” I said, gesturing to where they were located. “You can take them for free?”
“Either because we already have a copy, or because they’ve been in the library for years and nobody reads them. Another reason is that we haven’t managed to get rid of them on the ‘sale’ shelf.”
This last bit was a joke and I smiled at her.
“So I can take some?”
“Feel free,” she said.
“Awesome!” I said, and rushed back out.
Upon my return to the shelf I had a proper look at the Free selection.
The books lined up there were these:
Antique Doll Houses by Moira Upsher
Rollerskating by Hugh and Gillian Pond
Raka by NP van Wyk Louw
Mxit Dictionary by Jabz Sintle
Norse Folktales retold by Famke Jansson.
I took the following four: Norse Folktales, Rollerskating, Mxit Dictionary and Cave Systems of the Western Cape.
A plan was formulating in my head.
I was feeling very alert and awake as I rode the train to central station so I could get my taxi. I eyed my school bag bulging with my new items. Four books for the curious mind. I felt excited.
No, there was something else I felt.
I felt rich.
Books are about possibilities. Therefore, me travelling with four new books I’d bought for free was a moment ‘rich with possibility’.
Tell us: Do you think you would be able to find anything of interest to you in the free books Phelo has chosen?