Of the many trials of moving, getting rid of books is perhaps the most torturous for me.  Ordinarily, you’ll get one of my books only by dint of an elaborately planned operation utilising a crack team of ninjas, special forces, and high-rent prostitutes.  But today, I came to the conclusion that most of my academic books, along with a smattering of rarely-read paperbacks, would not journey forth to the promised land with me.

Of course, actually throwing away a book is unthinkable–an unspeakable crime in my mind that ranks right up there with burning books or, say, wiping out an entire species.  Thus bound, I resolved to donate them to the local library, bolstered by the delighted (and dare I say dulcet) tones of the librarian who received my inquiry as to how they’d prefer to receive of my plenty.  And so it was that I set the stage for one of the most gut-wrenching experiences I’ve had since that odd-tasting hamburger from the airbase chow-hall.

Such was the level of my beneficence that I required a little library cart in order to transport my books into the library.  Not that the librarians (none of whom were as lithe as I’d fantasised about on the phone) would have minded watching my rippling muscles straining under the load of humanity’s acquired knowledge, you understand, but such distractions in the past have proven hazardous, with many a keeper-of-the-books bearing the scars of past papercuts.

Acquiring said cart, I pushed it towards the door and briefly imagined myself as a librarian, smiling benevolently down at the young seekers of knowledge dragged into the library against their will by well-meaning mothers.  Occasionally, I passed a genuinely enthusiastic young user of the library, and wished him the strength to bear the inevitable mocking of his peers until he possessed the power to crush their day-labourer future selves though the sheer power of his superior intellect.  And then, sunshine.

I begin to remove the (my!) books from my vehicle, and place them on the cart.  It is then that the horror begins, slowly rising up my throat to gleefully strangle my brainstem.  For there, laid out to see for any passerby, are my books.

I’ve never felt so violated.

Each time I return to the cart with another stack of books, I see them there, forlorn, with bright spines bravely displaying their titles to a cold world.   The people walking by barely spare them a glance; there is nothing special here for them.  For me, it is though I have stripped off my clothes and spread-eagled myself on the pavement for the amusement of strangers.  A brief check of my own sobriety and the hurried repression of rising memories of unrepentant inebriation assures me that this is not the case, and that I’m just feeling that way.

Carrying the last of my books to the cart, and wheeling it towards the waiting door of the library, I feel that I’m abandoning well-loved companions.  These books have been with me for longer than most of my friends, and haven’t borrowed nearly as much money.   In the cool of the library proper, surrounded by library patrons murmuring in quiet tones their requests for directions to the Starbucks, the sensation of the surrounding books is palpable.

I tell myself that here my books will find new homes, and be loved by new readers.  That, though I will miss their titles on my shelves, I do a good thing by passing on books to others.  I remind myself of how heavy books are to move, and of the hernia the moving guy got when he tried to lift my box of books I’d forgotten to mark as “heavy”.  I laugh, and feel better.

Goodbye, little friends.

Advertisements