Home, Away From Home

“Looking back, it is so much more. Life happens twice, I believe. Once in the moment, and again in retrospect.”

the_library_of_babel_by_owen_c
Art by: Owen Carson

Memories of my teenage years have turned into wispy little clouds. Something you could blow apart with your breath and yet something that still occupies space. I remember the greater themes, the main emotions, but the little details always escape me, out through a mousehole in my brain. I’ve always been a ‘bigger picture’ kind of person, for better or worse.

And in the ‘bigger picture’ versus ‘detail-oriented’ debate, I’ve always sided with my view of things. Though always secretly wishing that I could have both.

But how lucky am I, that I have time capsules buried around this earth. That memories are not just floating bits of data, that they are connected to scents and places, times and people.


I pushed open the doors to the library, and deeply inhaled the scent of books and summers past. It smelled of rainy Saturdays spent cooped up in a hushed library, of too-warm afternoons spent falling asleep, nose deep between the pages of an open tome. It smelled of extended lunch breaks spent reciting verse in the small school library.

It is home, this room filled with books.

It is lacking, yes. It lost its one copy of ‘The Little Prince’ and the floorboards are a little wonky.

But it is home.

It has been for a long time, now.

I’ve been borrowing books here ever since I was 12. Oh, back then, I was painfully shy and my nascent social anxiety did not make it very easy to be out in a cramped room with strangers. But I remember now, that first day. Even with all my fears lodged in my throat, I had been able to breathe in deeply the scent of inked pages, and then out.

As someone who did not fit anywhere else, who was still searching for some place to belong in, this was home.

My first home away from home. The kind of home you have to find when you grow up and your worlds, your circles expand. When you have to exist in places other than school and ‘home’. When you have to find yourself.

But you don’t really notice when you do it, when you spend every Saturday at the city library. You don’t notice how it shapes you or your life, how it later turns into an elaborate explanation of why you are who you are now. You do not realise how later on, it will turn into ‘that summer when I was 14 and used to go to the library every week’. Looking back, it is so much more. Life happens twice, I believe. Once in the moment, and again in retrospect.

But that library was my first safe-place. My little treasure-box, my solitary island. A place where I had long, silent conversations with characters from other universes, where I befriended authors I would never meet.

To think I forgot all of those feelings at one moment in time, that I lived my life not remembering seems ludicrous. But how lucky am I that I have time capsules buried around the city. That memories are not just floating bits of data, easily lost to Time.


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