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On loss and finding a home


We went to the downtown library.

We’re still in Columbus until Friday afternoon, watching my friend’s dog, but we don’t have the money to do anything fun this time. We eat our meals at home and play a little in the yard. McFluff is actually hiding at Holly the Witch’s house because that dog is a squirrel dog that wouldn’t be a very good roommate for a big guinea pig. She puts it outside every afternoon in the old incubator of her hens, where it makes its way through the clover, leaving zigzag tracks.

I was told there was a dinosaur exhibit in the main library lobby downtown, and it was free. Adrienne has a friend just her age and on her exact neurodivergent wavelength who lives down the street from Holly the Witch, and the friend needed to check out some new books from the library, so I offered a round.

I’m still getting used to driving in Columbus, even though it’s a thousand times easier than driving in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is a compact triangle-shaped city and Columbus is a sprawling mass that gets bigger every year, but Columbus is laid out on a nice, neat grid. Pittsburgh’s intersections are esoteric hieroglyphs, but every intersection in downtown Columbus is a legible X. Every few blocks in Pittsburgh, you have to duck under a tunnel or cross a terrifying suspension bridge; Columbus has fewer bridges, and the bridges are so chunky it’s easy to imagine you’re still on a normal road. In Pittsburgh, if you forget your parking brake, you could back into a river because everything is on a steep hill. In Columbus, there are practically no hills. If you start driving on North High Street to Whetstone Park, you can see for miles, up to the city center skyscrapers. Orientation is easy.

Still, it’s something to understand the traffic here.

I drove downtown with no more than the usual difficulty, following my phone’s monotonous GPS, while the girls in the back chatted about Minecraft.

Have you ever been to the main library in Columbus, Ohio?

This is about the most beautiful library I can imagine.

Entering through the front door you walk through a gallery with a very strange piece of modern art, a galaxy of giant bronze spheres hanging from the ceiling. When I was a child, I sprinted through this gallery because I was afraid that the spheres would fall and crush me. Then you come to another giant room, a three-story atrium, with a mural painted on the side of the staircase. On one side are the librarians at their desks and on the other is the children’s section. I loved this kids section. When I was a preschooler, there were toys in the corner, a kitchen, and a huge supply of realistic rubber food that I cooked and served to imaginary guests for hours. Then, in the 1990s, they installed computers with the coveted newest CD-ROM technology. I would play The Oregon Trail II and The Lost Mind of Doctor Brain while my dad flipped through the adult books upstairs. Now that children’s computer games are no longer a novelty, the children’s section has comfy chairs and a long school bus-shaped bench.

My dad used to take us to the library to enjoy the computers every Wednesday after daily mass. Sometimes I was taken to the library to play on the computers when my behavior was considered too shameful to be present at these despised charismatic prayer meetings. The library was a refuge from fanatical madness.

I missed it.

Adrienne’s friend did a bee line for a series of high fantasy novels and released volumes three, four, six, seven, eight, and nine.

“It will take me five days,” she explained. “But I have to find book five.”

We returned to the Giant Room, where three life-size rubber dinosaurs were on display. I asked the librarian to have volume five delivered to the branch library closest to the little girl’s house, which she did. Librarians are magical people who know how to do everything.

I stood there for a minute, breathing in the smell of books, crying inwardly for all that was good about a far from good childhood, wondering for the ten thousandth time what my life would be like if I didn’t. never heard of the charismatic Renouveau and I had never, never, never lost my family because of this madness, I had never been to Steubenville, I had never known what it was like to feeling homesick in a place I don’t belong.

Then it was my turn at the librarian’s office. “Could I…could I…I want to see how to get a library card?” I don’t live in Columbus but am an Ohio resident and come here every six weeks or so.”

I have lately. I’ve been home every six weeks this summer and I want to keep it that way if I can. Right now, we don’t even know how we’ll pay the rent for the hated house in Steubenville, but if there’s gas, I can come see my new friends for the weekend as soon as I can, free.

The magical librarian granted my wish. I gave him my name and contact details, and found myself holding a thin plastic talisman.

Adrienne ran and leaned under my arm just then. The children’s librarian who had walked after her, asking if she needed help with anything, laughed. We all laughed. Adrienne is wary of strangers.

“You know,” her friend said, “You come across an average of thirty-five serial killers in your lifetime. Maybe this was one of them!

“Thirty-four more!” I said, clutching my library card like it was the most precious thing in the world.

“You know,” Adrienne’s friend said, shouldering her satchel, “If you don’t have a map with you, they can search the system for you.”

I didn’t know how to explain that it wasn’t about the library system. It’s about losing and finding a home.

We walked back to the Hungarian village on this nice orderly grid with way too much traffic, talking about serial killers.

For a moment, anything seemed possible.

picture via Pixabay