The Library at The End of The World
Updated: May 17
I have been struggling with a massive depression for at least two years now. Perhaps more. Perhaps all my life, honestly, looking back at my journals. They are a repetitive sameness of misery, year after year, interspersed with manic attempts at self improvement and grandiose attempts at insight.
Overall, they are not particularly interesting reading. There is an appalling lack of plot-development in my life, or at least one would think so, based on what I actually recorded. And yet I know there have been plot developments in my life. Jobs won, progressed in, lost or left; artistic achievements big and small (mostly small); friends alienated, lovers driven away, family disappointed. All those things, had I chosen to dissect and analyze them, might have made for slightly interesting reading. At least they might have been a historical document, a memento of the age, which is what I like to read when I read autobiography.
I am going to try, for as long as I can manage to muster the motivation (which, honestly, might not be very long) to write a journal here that is less a tool for emotional self-regulation and more an attempt to reflect the times that I live in. The End Times, as they are sometimes dramatically termed.
Are they they end times? Well of course they are. All times are the end times. Everything is always ending. Every day, every moment, is a finality. But I refer to the title-case End Times, the big End Times.
Oh dear I'm already getting overdramatic. That is likely to be a running theme in whatever this journal becomes.
I could, at this point, muse upon my tendency to be overdramatic. That would be in keeping with the kind of journals I've written in the past. It would likely be followed by some self-analysis as to why I'm overdramatic, and perhaps some metaphysical mumbo-jumbo as to the spiritual reasons why being overdramatic is really OK. The goal of my journalling was usually always to make myself feel better about something about myself that made me feel bad.
But I'm trying to write a different kind of journal now. At least for right now, at least for today. So I will write about My Library.
It's not "my" library, any more than it is anyone else's. It is a public library, one of the few types of public things left in the United States that truly seem an unmixed good. It has always been in this spot, in the neighborhood where I grew up (and now live again, with my mother, having moved home after a series of catastrophic life choices.) It didn't always look like it does in the picture. It was renovated sometime in the early 90s, I think. The renovation is quite nice, but I can never come in here without trying to remember how it looked when I was growing up. I can remember parts of it, where the checkout desk was, how the stacks were arranged. I can remember geographically where my favorite books (horse books, usually) were shelved. But when I come in here and try to put myself in those spots, I can't quite map it. The old and the new don't really align.
Anyway, none of that particularly matters, other than to illustrate the beauty of continuity (and the mild sadness of discontinuity) that this library represents. It has always been here, quiet and cool.
As I've pursued my semi-voluntary slide down the socioeconomic ladder, I've come to appreciate things I never appreciated before. Namely, the things that help poor people that rich people don't see, or don't think are important. One of these is free printing and free internet (which the library has.) They have a laser printer and you can print stuff. That is really helpful. And they have a bathroom (that they don't lock) and a water fountain. And they have AC, which is really important on days like today, a spring day in Oregon where the temperatures are expected to reach into the 90s.
They have a bank of comfortable seats at the far corner, beneath the tall windows that look out over the little neighborhood of Hillsdale, where I grew up. I always sit in the same chair, the one by the corner table where there is a little fern that someone waters. Whenever I come here I feel pretty safe, which is something I can't say for most places. I don't just mean physically safe, I mean spiritually safe. Safe from how the world is changing. Safe from the news, safe from imagining what it would be like to live in my car, safe from checking the spot on my arm where I last sold plasma to see if the bruising there has subsided. I can't sell plasma again until the bruising goes away.
Across from the place where I sit are all the magazines. The magazine rack. It holds a grim selection of exceptionalist propaganda; The Economist, The Nation, Harpers -- alongside an equally-grim selection of escapist, aspirationist heroin; People, Sports Illustrated, Real Simple. One magazine, whose masthead I can't quite make out and I don't recognize, is all bright yellow, with a spray painted blue image of Zelensky. Above his image, in a drippy handscrawled font, it reads, "The Choice is Between Freedom and Fear."
That is so very true. But for so many other reasons than the simplistic ones the graphic treatment suggests. The choice is between freedom and fear. But what if freedom is not Zelensky and fear is not Putin? What if freedom and fear are other things?
Anyway, that's My Library at the End of The World. There are a lot more things to say about the end of the world. I will try to figure out how to say them, in my own silly voice, from my own silly perspective as a 54-year-old failure living in her mother's basement, checking her arm for bruises, and feeling unaccountably grateful that there is still free laser printing in the world, at least for now.