Tight Spaces

She sits in the lowest level of the library, dwarfed by the tall stacks surrounding her. Carrying books she chose in the children’s room upstairs, she brings them here to absorb their stories in the musty silence. Sitting in the stiff, over-sized wooden chair, she watches her legs dangle several inches off the floor as the sundress her mother made fans out around her thighs in soft folds above her knees. Her face lifts and she surveys the tomes that fill the stacks rising on all sides of her.

An old paper smell permeates the air, and she breathes deeply, relishing the smell and enveloping herself in one story after another. Here she feels less alone. Here the circumstances of her life don’t separate her from others.

In school, she discovers education is the way up – the door that, when opened, will show her the way out. She works diligently to open it.

Her parents grew up in tight spaces, confined variously by geography and the myopic vision of their respective, and isolated, communities. Neither would be much help to her in the larger world she envisioned for herself. The focus of their lives had been day-to-day survival. It still was.

Her goal is college. “Take shorthand and typing and become a secretary so you can have nice clothes, work in a clean environment, find yourself a husband,” her mother tells her, many times. She takes typing, and becomes a secretary in the furtherance of her goal. It is her beginning, not ending, point.

Education is the driving force in her life. She loves words, loves the way they sound when they roll off the tongue, the way they look when paper soaks up the ink in her ballpoint pen as it is purposefully released onto the page, the way they feel as her fingers form them on her computer.

She loves the nuances of their varied meanings – and finding just the right one to drive her point home.

 

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