empty shelves

i wonder who’s missing.  the pages whisper from their perches, peering around corners and having staring contests with one another across aisles.  the early summer sun shines through windows that reach from floor to ceiling, dust motes sparkling in the rays.

it’s not that they’re gone entirely — some are here.  but there are gaps.  glaring gaps, like missing teeth.

i wonder who’s missing.  tom sawyer and his whitewashed fence?  perhaps alice never made it back through the rabbit hole and onto these shelves.

***

i’ve never been a morning person.  i feel more rested if my five or six hours of sleep come between 3:00 and 8:00 than 12:00 and 5:00.  my head does not pop off the pillow.  my eyes are not bright, and there is a decided lack of bushiness to my tail.  the first hour or so of being awake passes in a blur, mind on autopilot.  even as i write this, i’m trying to wipe the sleep from my eyes and prepare myself for the day.

there are a few things though, that in spite of my bleary-eyed stumbling give me a ittle push in the direction of happiness at this early hour.  broad street is quiet at 5:30 am.  soon, a steady stream of new teachers will file past through temple’s campus, but for now it’s still, and i’m alone for the most part as i walk.  i enjoy the light summer warmth and the sunrise light dancing along the edge of the clouds.  the walk to breakfast gives me a brief pause, a muted oasis before my day takes off and i’m funneled relentlessly from session to session to classroom to library to mentors and teachers and specialists…an oasis.  my morning walk is mine.  and although it’s uncomfortable for me to open my eyes at 5:00, it’s worth it for the relative solitude.

i’m not entirely alone on this walk, however.  and it’s the people who really make it pleasant.

“hey, girl, good morning!”  you’d think by his tone that i’d been walking this way my whole life instead of just three days so far.  “how’re you doin’, girl?”

his smile is infectious from his station on the median in the center of broad street, cart of newspapers at his feet.  he has dreadlocks to his shoulder, and his bright orange vest vies against the sunrise  for the position of most colorful splash in the morning dimness.  i answer him that i’m tired, as usual.

“aw, yeah,” he says, “but there’s a holiday this weekend!  i’m not gonna be here friday, no way.”

i return his grin, eager for my own weekend plans — which will hopefully involve sleeping at least an average of an hour or two a night more.  i tell him to have a great day.

a marquee blares at the liacouras center to my left:  “temple university:  125 years of excellence.”  to my right, there’s a man on a bench.  his cheeks are sunken, black hair cropped close to his head.

“morning, ma’am, can you spare any change so i can get a cup of coffee?”

i tell him i’m not sure if i have much change — i had to use it to buy subway tokens.  but i dig in my wallet anyway and find 19 cents.  i hand it to him, a bit abashed.  i wish he’d caught me after breakfast, when i could give him something from my lunch.

“thank you, miss.  bless you.”

i tell him to have a good day too.  yesterday, i think i saw him sleeping in the doorway of a church on the way to the busses.  i’d thought about putting my sandwich near him so he would have something to eat when he woke up, but i changed my mind.  now i wish i had.

last night i finished reading a graphic novel by j. michael straczynski called midnight nation.  one of the major themes is the people our society refuses to see, those who fall through the cracks, who become invisible when we can’t bring ourselves to look them in the eyes.  i think about that as i continue my walk.  everyone deserves to be seen.

***

i wonder at this difference.  i want to run my fingers along these more than half empty shelves, feel the spines of books ripple under my fingertips.  i always had full bookshelves at my school libraries.

looking around now as the dusty morning light filters in, the gaps on these shelves feel like they represent exactly the problem we’re trying to solve.  the achievement gap.  the knowledge gap.  to follow the old adage, the power gap.  in a very concrete way, the gaps on these shelves are one more thing our students don’t have access to, can’t reach from where they stand.  if we could bridge that gap…if we could fill in these shelves.  i have to believe we can.  i feel that thosee whose words whisper in the quiet of the library, rustling from worn pages — i feel they would agree with me.  twain, tolkein, dostoyevsky, konrad, dickens, collins, shakespeare, austen, bronte, byron, dickenson — their modern contemporaries rowling, king, meyer, eddings, koonts, evanovich, oates as well.  they would want these shelves full.

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About Emmie Mears

Saving the world from brooding, one self-actualized vampire at a time.

Posted on 2 July, 2009, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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