Computers, old and new, grab your attention when you walk in. Behind them, 32 rows of knowledge fill the brown and grey concrete/brick building. The boring texture of the walls exuberate the uniqueness of each book. The best ones usually had their plastic coating ripped. They were used and withered. I drug my fingers across the covers waiting for my movement to catch a noticeable imprint. There are always so many. I never know what to choose. I read the descriptions of at least 30 books. I guessed the ending for all of them and assumed I was right. Never judge a book by its cover. But I can judge a book by its description. Not just the book either, but its author as well. An original piece with an original writer will always go out of their way to catch your attention, even if that means purposely not making sense in the summary. Originality isn’t everything however. That’s the problem with searching for books. Originality at least stands out, although my favorite books usually have a defined genre. A noticeable setting. Sometimes the artists will touch all corners of book writing and challenge my mind in the process. Even then I find the meaning. If it has meaning it has genre. And if it seems it doesn’t need a meaning to be good then that is its meaning. Not everything’s political. Only to my brain it seems. Truly, I’m only enjoying the book when I forget there’s an author.
I haven’t been to this library in forever. Having said that, my favorite librarian Mrs. T still works the front desk with a welcoming smile. It’s not as busy these days so I figured I’d say hello and ask for a book recommendation. She always gave the best.
“Hey Mrs. T!”
“Oh my lord, Joshua?”
“Damn I’m old. Coming to get a book?”
“Well you’re definitely old enough now for my favorite book.” Mrs. T handed me a book titled I Love Tigers. “I’ll tell you my side of the story first. On the plane ride to South Africa when I was 26, my main concern was finding a story. I was a journalist and I didn’t want to report the same old narrative. I wanted to stick out and get my career going. My secondary concern was having a good time. This was basically my vacation and I didn’t get many of those working for the biggest newspaper in the state. I met a thirty year old man dressed to impress on my second night that bought me drinks and kept me company. He had body guards and lines of friends so I entertained him for as long as he wanted. My curiosity combined with my attraction and his liquor put me in his mansion that night. He was not my best but certainly good enough to do again. That’s beside the point. The next day he told me he had to go make a deal. I asked what kind of deal. He danced around the subject before admitting it was a blood diamond exchange in Uganda on a tiger resort. That’s the setting of this book and that guy I met is the one who wrote it.”
“No way! For real?” I finally asked enamored by her story.
“Yeah. So we both agreed the relationship was going nowhere but I asked if I could come. He obliged. The beginning of the trip was actually very fascinating. Approving of his behavior wasn’t in my field of thought. Only how this fit into a story. This allowed me to unbiasedly see a welcoming host and a courteous exchange. They both agreed upon the amount and had long deep conversations before bidding farewell. Before we could leave however, screams were heard from outside the walls. Local activists had raided the premises and set the tigers free. There were over 200 tigers and the guards didn’t stand a chance while being distracted by the guerilla warfare style intruders. 5 of us were trapped in a room for days trying to navigate our way out. Half a month passed before we killed or trapped enough tigers to safely maneuver the grounds. The man who took me apologized on our way back but in hindsight it was great for me. My story won a Pulitzer Prize and launched my career. But I quit not long after. It was right around when he finished this masterpiece.”
“So this book is his side of the story?”
“Not just that. His whole time as a dealer and his journey getting out of the business. It wasn’t easy for him. I kept everyone anonymous in my stories but he wasn’t afraid to use names at all. Except for mine. He changed mine out of respect.”
“How’d you end up in this library?”
“Oh I got tired of reporting. I’d rather just read and observe.” I looked at the cover. His name was Kettle Owuguwe. I didn't know whether to laugh or be more intrigued.
“What’s he doing now?”
“I couldn’t tell you where he lives, but the book will tell you how he got there. Truth be told, he fell in love with me. But he doesn’t want me to come see him. So he won’t tell me what he’s doing. But he does send lovely letters every now and then. Money too. I accept his love with open arms. It’s just unfortunately the type of love that thrives on distance and the overarching presence of one memory we both share."
“Thanks for the book suggestion Mrs. T.”
“Sure thing Joshua.” After I left that day, I never saw her or that library again. I moved before I remembered to return it. But I gladly paid the fee when they asked to charge my account. The book was life changing. Even more so was the librarian. I hope the library last forever and I hope she dies working there. A true book nerd such as herself would appreciate the poetry of death by love. Nobody believes me when I tell them how memorable she was. They probably never will. But I’m okay with being one of the rare individuals with a cool librarian. From now on, that memory and that beautiful story can be my little secret. Thanks Mrs. T.