It’s pretty clear I didn’t live up to the challenge. This place has been a ghost town for over a month now. I could pretend I’ve been writing in my planner/journal, but honestly, the only things I’ve written in there are times for appointments I didn’t end up going to and the word OFF on days I had off from work, which gives you an idea of what has been keeping me going. I can make excuses: The holidays! (I slept through 7/8s of Hanukkah), “I’ve been busy!” (I haven’t), natural disasters! (on the other side of the country) but I’m not going to bother. I’m not even going to try to explain what I have been doing with my time instead of writing because it’s irrelevant at this point and I don’t remember. Let’s keep trying.
My writing challenge turned into more of a reading challenge. I can’t afford to buy 2-3 books a week so I went to the local public library and got myself a library card. It’s old, historic, quite large, elevator and all, and pretty (the building, not the card. The card is plastic with graphics clearly designed in the late 80s.) There’s something about having a library card that makes me feel more connected to an area, more so than a license, license plates or a local mailing address. I feel obligated because I have something to return – books. The state doesn’t care if I leave with my driver’s license. California sure didn’t. Not paying my car registration any longer they did have a thing (or five urgent letters) to say about. The city doesn’t care if I forward my mail. But the library, they lose something if I don’t return my books. They lose inventory and a loyal patron from whom they can glean $.10 per book per late day. To the library, I’m valuable. At least as long as I have books checked out, which is why I need to have a book checked out at all times now. The library is counting on me. You’re not really somebody until you check out books at a library. They have VHS too.
Library books are a lifeline to a place. I live here now; I just hope I don’t die here. They have a lovely public library but Fall River, Massachusetts is not much of a place to call home, unless you’re Portuguese and have never lived anywhere else except maybe Portugal. It’s odd because most of the people that live in Fall River have lived here much longer than I have (their entire lives) and probably don’t have library cards. I’m not certain, I haven’t asked, but the library is pretty empty. Everyone develops connections to a place in different ways: buy a home, support the local businesses, send your kids to public school, run for city council, never talk to your neighbors, don’t get a landline, etc. If I go missing I’d like to think when the Jerry Orbach-looking cops question the librarian she will have kind words to say about me and my bi-weekly visits to the library. “Oh her, yeah, I remember her, nice gal. Came in here on Tuesdays, or was it Wednesdays? Didn’t say much. Forced smile but she tried. Only returned her books late once but that was around Christmas. The holidays, ya know? Why? Something happen to her?” And something will have happened to me. She’ll feign concern while counting the dimes I owe her. Fall River runs on change, not the progressive kind, the monetary kind. The parking meters downtown only take change, no cards, no QRC accessible app, just nickels, dimes, and quarters. No one takes pennies. Visiting the library is bit like traveling to another time, a time when I could afford things.
I thought up some slogans FRPL (Fall River Public Library) should use to boost visitations and check-outs:
Visit your local public library – you’ll feel rich, as long as you have a pocket full of a dimes.
The Downtown Public Library – someone will miss you when you’re gone, if you have overdue books.
The Fall River Public Library – stay awhile, or until you run out of change for the parking meter out front.
The public library on Main Street – that one old man still has every season of Ray Donovan on DVD checked out so stop asking. He might be dead.
FRPL – We don’t care if you read the book or used it as a coaster for a beer for two weeks, just don’t tear the pages.