10 weeks ago I never imagined closing the little library where I’m the director and chief window washer — and yet, in mid-March, I suddenly taped a sign on the door, locked up, and went home.
Wednesday, I opened the door, the windows, wiped down the desk, and opened. A hummingbird appeared first, darting around the ceiling. Shortly afterward, a couple wearing masks came in. They wanted library cards and novels, and I listened to their story of driving north from Florida. In her house, she had caught hummingbirds with her hands, and stood staring at the crazed bird while her husband and I talked. In April, they had driven north, on interstates that were nearly empty. They were here to stay.
Shortly afterward, a trustee appeared, seeking a novel. Then we stood outside, spread apart on the grass. As a little rain slowly fell, we talked library business and money and raising kids and town gossip, standing near the library garden perpetually in need of weeding.
Another woman pulled into the parking lot, got out, and exclaimed, “You’re open!” Just before I walked back into the library, the hummingbird darted from the building, disappearing into the blooming lilac bush, hungry, beating its wings for dear life.
You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read. It was books that taught me that the things that tormented me most were the very things that connected me with all the people who were alive, who had ever been alive.