The Smell of Old Leather Books

By Sol Dente, TIWP Student

when i was born, the first thing i knew was the smell of old leather books. it permeated the air of my childhood, settled deep into my bones and ran like raindrops down my spine. it was baked into the oxygen in my blood, woven into my hair follicles and knotted into my cartilage. it was as present and as heavy as the air in my lungs or the floor underneath my feet. 

for much of my life, the Library was all i knew. it was vast, too vast for any one human to explore. shelves seemed to go on forever, reaching towards a cobwebbed ceiling so high up that sometimes clouds would obscure the view of rotting women patterns. there was never an end to the number of rows or shelves or books and i learned from a young ago to always remember where i was. to get lost in the Library was a dammed fate like no other. 

the first area i remember was small and dusty. the chairs were made of wood that always seemed to be a few seconds away from rotting and the bright colors of my favorite books were always faded with age i had not been able to see. i spent my days in those rooms stringing together longer and longer strands of syllables like beads on a necklace, not content until i had a brísingamen of fricatives. i also learned about brísingamen in those rooms, old prose tucked inside the crumbling stone of a small tower fortification. i loved the science and mythology i found in those rooms. to my younger self it was nothing but pure joy, the ecstasy of learning. 

eventually, the rotting chairs and faded books no longer suited my tastes and i decided to forgo the endless stacks for a ladder i had noticed sitting in the corner. ascending towards the vast ceiling, i suddenly found myself not in a Library, but in an observatory with bright pinpricks of light outside its windows. that was the first time i saw the stars. i became obsessed with them. i plotted courses, learned their names and constellations and histories, planned my own visits to these far off worlds. but in the end, it wasn’t the right place for me. no matter how much i loved them, i could not operate the heavy gears and moving platforms that would allow me to see them better. and when i realized that, i descended the ladder into something entirely new. 

the Library was the most modern i had seen it. a large television covered one end of a small room, a couch on the other, and shelves and shelves of games and video game lore and video game history spanning from that room to the next to the next. i spent years in those rooms, playing the games and learning the lore. i was so caught up in it all that i didn’t even notice the next transition slowly taking place.

my game discs slowly were replaced by textbooks, my walkthroughs by biographies, until my tv turned into a strategy bored and i settled into an old leather armchair to learn the intricacies of history. i watched with awe as sedan and metz played out before my eyes, laughed as i learned ridiculous fact after ridiculous fact about historical figure after historical figure. it was amazing. and then i heard a knock at the door. 

i had never gone outside before. it seemed like such a silly idea. i had everything i needed in the Library. but now on my doorstep there was a boy with hair like spun gold and robes like the darkest night that held out his hand and asked me to come with him. so i did, hesitantly at first, then with glee. he became my Library, his chin was the roof far above me and his arms were those vast and warm walls. we danced in the rain, kissed under the stars, laughed and loved another with all the passion of two teenagers with nothing to lose. but as we ran, he began to run further and further ahead, and no matter how i tried to catch up, i could not. he left me behind, sobbing in a clearing as the rain thundered down and my heart broke into a million pieces. i realized then that a person cannot be a home. that is too much for any one person. 

so i went home. i leafed through so many things, hoping something with spark my interest the way he did. so far nothing has. but i’ve healed. i feel so much better with that roof over my head and real walls to lean on. i no longer have to worry about how he feels or the way i act. all i know is the smell of old leather books.

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