The Rosses had taken me to the library once. After school, I recreated the route in my head based on my new starting point – left to Mt. Airy Avenue, east to Sedgwick, jog right then left, then up the hill to the cobblestones of Germantown Avenue. It took fifteen minutes each way on short legs. The first day I went too far up Mt. Airy and had to turn back home, careful not to ask any strangers for directions.
The adults at Lovett Memorial Library were all tall and thin. I looked straight ahead and quietly made my way upstairs. I stood in the middle of the long room and scanned. Where to start? Where to start? Do you need help? I shook my head.
‘A.’ That seems a good place to start. I stared at the spines. Abbott, Adler,…look like you know what you’re doing! There were so many Louisa May Alcott books that they took up their own row. I knelt on the carpet and loosed one from the crowded shelf. Yellowed plastic crackled when I split open the hard covers. I read the jacket promises of girls triumphing over tragedy, someone rescuing an orphan ugly duckling that turns into a swan. They were thick and smelled different from the books above and below, like old perfume and dusty, velvet curtains. They smelled like they would watch over me. Little Women came home with me the first day, then all the others, sometimes two or three at a time. When I finished Alcott, I moved on to the next ‘A’ book if it had the right smell or color. When I finished ‘A’ I moved onto B. In tenth grade, at the library on Midvale Avenue near our second house, I finished two Isaac Bashevis Singer anthologies, and then walked away.