The Great Cull

Afterwards, when the shelves were empty, quiet, and sad, I thought of the happier, fuller days when the books were patient and hopeful. Just the day before, the library books were sitting on my shelves, a bit bored perhaps, for I haven’t gotten to them in a while, but content to wait. Just the day before, the urge to return all the library books I’ve been hoarding hasn’t gripped me. Just the day before, it was still summer and leisure, the promise of hours devoted to reading stretched seemingly endless before me.

From this . . .

But then the fever struck. The need to stare at an empty shelf, to begin the year anew, afresh, to see the reading list as rasa tabula, seized me. In a frenzied daze, I grabbed all the books — all books I previously thought of as “mine” — and stuffed them — they as shocked as me — into my bag. I heaved them down the stairs, threw them into the car and off I sped, as rude as any LA driver you’ve never seen. I couldn’t wait to get rid of them. I couldn’t wait to log into my library account to see it completely blank, to have it announce me an ignoramus.

. . . to this

I screeched into the parking lot, yanked the bag out of the passenger seat, and fairly ran with it towards the drop box. Ran is too speedy of a word; the bag was heavy; the books weighed me down. I slowed; my shoulders ached. But there it is, the drop box — that blasted weather-unprotected enormity hated by all preservationists — was in sight. I plopped down the bag, pulled so forcefully at the zipper that I banged my hand against the side, and with lifted the books, hand over fist, out, upward, over, and then down, and dumped into the black, dark chute.

When the last book disappeared from my hand and slipped away to unknown depths, it was done. The great book cull has come to pass. I returned home, noticeably slower and kinder to my fellow drivers. Thoughts of happier, fuller days that were no more swirled where the fever has been.

Photo credit to Richard Croft and Wikipaintings, which is displaying Edward Hopper’s “Sun in an Empty Room” in accordance with fair use principles.

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