The library was quiet, universally and sagaciously wooden, and dusty. Electrical sockets were somewhat hidden under flaps of carpet, and the buzz of the microfilm provided a background hum not unlike the drone of bees caught in a jam jar, being prodded slightly with a pencil. On the table lay a book, it’s spine worn from much love over the decades, and a cup of coffee, sneakily moved quietly and unseen past the librarian’s desk (my coat pocket from this day forth would have a delightful sugary crust that even the most aggressive washing detergent could not coax into moving). Sunlight fell from the glass ceiling above me, and my scarf worn more for fashion than for warmth, caused a slight gagging sensation as I inhaled the magnificent emptiness which surrounded me. I drummed my fingers slightly on the book’s cover as I took another sip of coffee, and prepared myself for the judicious realisation that history lay in more than mere textbooks.
My fingers moved between the sheets of paper, black and white photographs adorning each page. I had sat here before many times, selecting at each sitting a single book to accompany me through to the afternoon, eating biscuits unfound by the security patrol, or purchasing begrudgingly a marshmallow cookie from the library café. Delicious, but morally objectionable. I stared at the people in the photographs in my book, the Russian War, pictures of faces long gone and demonstrating exactly how life changes under observation; their mistrust of the camera ravaged their faces and then lived on forever in negligible print. It was enough to make you laugh, was noise permitted. I mused over the oncoming black clouds in various images, early attempts at photo editing, deliriously effective. The faces of those mourning proved too lethargic to even feign surprise at the presence of the photographer and instead were captured at the apex of their misery. Corpses and women in shawls, death and the disconsolate.
The black and the white of the photographs rendered them more easy to consume, their lack of colour becoming a sheen through which reality was much detached… how very beautiful and harrowing. Known places lay in ruins, and figures who could easily have been painted stared into the lens, their eyes an implosion of black, utterly lifeless. A Freudian excitement was provoked in the blood at the thought of raw pain depicted on the innocent sincerity of paper- morbid fascination grew with the turning of every page and every life which ebbed into nothingness- a corner of the earth forever their own, where their bones would begin to soften slowly.
But another afternoon had passed and my coffee cup had become insufferably empty. I wondered if they would take pictures of me, when I lay dead.