The Books

As dusk falls, the bookshelves dominate the room.  Couch, heater, tables and stereo flee the spotlight and crouch at the edge like agoraphobics, but only the bookshelves stand proudly against the wall.

The books sit back in the cheap white laminate shelves, allowing CDs to crowd in front of them and block their view.  The books share shelf space with 23 fold-out maps, a transistor radio, four moulding planes and a chess set. They are cluttered, untidy, disorganised.  They probably smell of dust, of old books, of acid eating the cellulose, of paper turning tan and brittle.

They are still and mute.  Noises drift in from other apartments: an unanswered telephone; the boastful voices of young men hiding their ignorance from themselves; a female singer so far away that the backing is all but obscured, leaving her a capella, the same sound the drummer heard in the studio as he watched her dub the vocals.

The books listen, impassive.  They know so much more than this cultural froth from the hoi polloi.  Why, they have ideas, philosophy, discussions, science and logic within them; why should they concern themselves with the ephemeral chit-chat of the emotions, these words and passions that will not last the night?  They are important, they are the stuff of erudite discussions; they will come into their own after dinner, when the coffee comes out and the noises outside turn to brushing of teeth and flushing of water.  They will jump off the shelves then and spring open to make a point; they will face off against each other with charts and quotations and references and facts and metaphors and unsubstantiated claims that strain the bounds of reason.

But for now they are mute in the twilight, and the gossip of lovers drifts past their unbending spines.

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