A Stellar Flare of Young Adult Writing and Visual Art
BY LINDSEY STAUB
The beat-up, red Nissan jolted to a stop in one of the parking spaces in the practically empty lot. I turned off the ignition and stared out at the barren space interrupted only by a navy Volvo, a gray Sedan, and a compact Hyundai. By the sound it was making on my windshield, I could tell that the wind was picking up outside. The white noise worsened the headache already throbbing at my temples. Feeling suddenly confined by the exoskeleton of my hand-me-down car, I took a deep breath and braced myself for the chill.
The air was crisp and bit at my nose. I clomped to the nearest building: The library. It was a sandy color and had “Pierson Library” painted above the entrance in black. With one hand I massaged my aching forehead, and with the other I swung open the door.
The sound my boots made against the tile floor reminded me too fondly of the one my dad’s loafers made late last night once he finally returned from his spontaneous three-day absence. Directly to my right was an elderly volunteer stamping away at a pile of books monotonously, pushing up her cat-eye glasses every once in a while.
Past her were rows of bookshelves and a single student typing away at a computer with two fingers. I passed them, feeling terribly self-conscious about the way I interrupted the silence. I ducked into the nearest aisle in order to escape the boring eyes of the people surrounding me.
I scanned the rows of books packed haphazardly between the wooden panels. Every book was written by authors I didn’t recognize. By the feminine calligraphy on the spine of each book, I concluded that I mistakenly entered the dreaded young adult romance section. All of the books were nearly identical; cotton candy pink floral prints littered the shelves. My mom’s mug matched a particularly peppy book written by a McNeal woman I had never heard of. I picked it from its stuffed position and ran my hand over the cover. My throbbing head worsened as I thought of my mom now, using the same mug to drink caffeine after her long night. When my dad returned home in drunken perplexity, my mom stayed up until two three in the morning, bickering with him. My mom cried and my dad rampantly slammed his fists down on the counter as I covered my ears with my pillows in my bedroom down the hall.
I shoved the book back into place at the thought of my broken household. I fled earlier that morning to escape the foreboding hungover my dad was sure to harbor. The morning after was usually when he sobbed his apologies, and my mom whole-heartedly forgave him. I refused to see that.
I ran my finger along the spines as I paced down the aisle. Only one book broke the tedious conformity of the romance section. It’s spine was the darkest navy, almost black. The words were matte and difficult to read against the dark background. I knelt down and examined the title closely. Trees and Children, I read to myself. The author’s last name was Tiburs and the publishing company’s icon was a howling wolf.
I slipped the flimsy book out. It was about the size of my hand and about one hundred pages thick. On the cover was a matte black, leafless tree against the same navy sky. Trees and Children sat below the tree in stiff letters. The author’s first name was absent, but “Tiburs” was typed out in the corner. The inside pages were fragile and tinted an aged yellow color. The synopsis on the back was short and in brief sentences. It was a mystery about a brother and sister who ran away and got lots in the woods. I flipped through the pages until the forty-ninth one caught my eye. It was the beginning of chapter five.
There were annotations scrawled on the side and words were circled in pen. Clouds encompassed metaphors and oxymorons. I flipped the page and there, too, were notes.
On page sixty three there was a complementary drawing of the boy described. He was short and bony, his hair shaggy and his eyes deep. On the seventy-fifth page, a bracket framed a sentence describing a star-scattered sky. To the side of it, “Reminds me of Greensboro, North Carolina”. I had never left Colorado and made a mental note to one day visit Greensboro.
I sat down on the stained, blue carpet and leaned against the bookshelf. The silence in the library was briefly interrupted by a sudden ad playing on the computer. After glares from the elderly volunteer, the girl operating it muted the machine.
Nearly every page was filled with beautiful entries, sketches, or circles. On the front of the book was a list of everyone who checked it out and returned it. There were only three names. The first one was Richard Archer whose letters were slanted like steep hills. He rented the book in 1988. Next was Nichole Noris’s long, bony cursive name next to the return date in 1992. Then there was Mallory Copland who checked out the book in 2005. The list documented that she received it in good condition and returned it mediocrely. Oh Mallory.
The cover was ripped like the holes in my sweater and the pages were folded down like the double joints in my elbows. Somehow I could not help but think that this book was meant for me; somehow it and I were connected. And by her writing on its pages, she was- in a way- imprinting on me.
I read the first thirty pages after that. I took a brief break to get some water from the water fountain near the historical section then returned to my position hidden by the cotton candy-colored covers. From there I read an additional fifty pages.
There were only twenty-three pages left and I decided not to rent it. There was nowhere I would rather read it than amidst the romantic fiction. I finished the novel right there, after two hours. When I finished the story, my head swarmed with a new idea of not only the book, but also Mallory. From her inscriptions, I could picture her. Tall and uncomfortable and kind and bony. Someone who went to places like Greensboro, North Carolina. Someone who had a drunk for a father and a forgiving mother. Someone who would spend two hours in a library, reading to escape reality. Someone like me.
Lindsey Staub lives in Palos Verdes Estates and attends Palos Verdes High School. She created this piece after a rough night with her family, though it was not as bad as the character in the story, it still hurt. The only place she could look to for comfort was the book she was reading, which was Kurt Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday. While she sobbed over the night’s debacles, her tears stained the pages and her anger ripped the pages. She got inspired to write this work about a boy struggling and finding comfort in a book like she had.