Somehow I always pick the rainy days to walk downtown.
Despite getting to the library five minutes after it opened, I’m not the first person there. A woman with raindrops still caught in her dark hair is at one of the computers checking the catalog, and a man in a battered newsboy cap is browsing the shelves. I’m not the only person who wants to curl up with a good book on a rainy day.
But first I’ve got books to return. The two librarians have brought in the returns bin from the book drop outside, blocking the drop at the desk. I hand over my stack of hardcovers. One says, “Good morning.” The other says, “Thank you.”
I head straight for the book I know is waiting on the shelf for me, unless someone checked it out in those first five minutes. The night before, I went to request it, only to find out my local branch had a copy, and miracle of miracles, it was checked in. No request necessary.
Only then do I join the man in the newsboy in browsing, picking one title up, putting it back, trying another. In less than five minutes I have two more books. Three is the right number–three books fit in my messenger bag without loading it down so heavily it makes me walk with a limp.
The booth by the window with its green faux-leather seats beckons me. Under the rain-splattered glass is the perfect place to sit and write and listen to the librarians chat about the prizes for the teen’s summer reading contest. Someone’s going to win a copy of Minecraft, which they probably already have by now; but still, it’s a good prize.
I haven’t done a reading contest since the fifth grade, and all I got was a ribbon. It was the third and last time I read How to Eat Fried Worms. It was the fifth and last time I read Island of the Blue Dolphins. I still remember, oh, not wishing that I was stranded alone on an island, but imagining what I would do if I were. Looking outside reminds me of the book cover–the tiny figure of a girl standing on a grassy shore under a gray sky. At least, that’s how I remember it. It’s been a long time.
But there are three books on the table beside me, and they need checking out, so I can head home and find new places to imagine myself.
Maybe somewhere with a little less rain.