The room is peaceful. Old jazz music plays through the tinny speakers above the door, at odds with the contents of the room. There’s a oriental carpet on the floor, a deep red that somehow matches the mismatched spines perfectly. The sounds of mugs clinking and the coffee machine warming milk can be heard through the doorway. But it seems a million miles away from where you are.
The books on the shelves either side of you are older than your parents. Than your grandparents. They’ve survived centuries, and you can still read the titles on their soft spines. There are children’s books that you remember your mother reading to you when you were young. That was a long time ago, you think, as your back twinges and you lean into the walking stick you’ve come to rely far too much on.
The entire room reminds you of your grandmother’s library. A small room. She’d sit in a faded red armchair and read quietly, and you’d sit at her feet and watch her. She never read aloud, only lost herself in the words in front of her eyes. You sat beneath her, eyes roaming the cover of the book, her face, the room. Memorising every detail, as if you knew, even then, that her time with you would be short. That you would go over these quiet memories time and time again, wishing you had asked her to read the stories to you too. Or even to tell you her own story. She was always so silent.
You watch a little brunette boy with thick curls like your own run into the room, disturbing the peace. The girl sat behind the desk laughs, assures you its no worry, it’s not a library, it keeps her entertained.
You usher your grandson out, thinking to yourself – not for the first time – that you will always read, out loud, every story he asks you to.
I only ever really have the time to write when I’m sitting in our rare books room, watching people’s reactions to the hundred year old books that we have in here. This little something came from watching a lady and her grandson.