The way that I walk out of Powell’s

by brittanychavez

I push through the door, out of the green room, and the force of it brings a gush of wind across my face. I am full of motion and I know very deeply that I’m moving towards certainty. The night seems warmer, or cold in a sharp way. I have been around people. I looked at them and they looked at me and for once there wasn’t anything more to it. Being here makes me feel less small, because here are other people who are small as well.

They are absorbed in their books and I in mine, and we all look up at the black rimmed clock. We are all in a million different worlds, but when we look up, we are here. We are little planets turned inward, with our own gravitational pull and our own moons. There are twenty-six centers in this room.

The blue room is my comfort zone. Sometimes I only pick up books because I like their title, or their cover design, or their shape or size. I’ll flip to the first page and read the first sentence, testing the waters, and afterwards slip it back into it’s rightful place. Sometimes I just walk up and down the aisles and trail my hands across the spines like a chain-link fence. Old books and new books sit side by side, the paper of the new books soaking up the smell of the old. People pass by me, we might brush arms and apologize to one another. I have a purpose and they have a purpose too.

Sometimes I’ll have to find a book I’ve never read and I’ll have to look it up and it’ll be in a room I’ve never been to before. When I get to the section I’ll look around and be shocked by all these books I never knew existed. Each of these books holds a world in it. There are so many worlds on so many shelves that I don’t even know about. The red room has rows of books, the end of each aisle punctuated by a window. Towards the back of the room I find the aisle I’m looking for and delve into a universe of books I’ve never thought to pick up. My guilty pleasure is the rose room. A room full of young adult fiction, novels that are lighthearted, perfect for an overstressed college mind. And yet even here I’ve found books that caught me off guard and changed my world, if only for a night.

I go sit in the cafe, the table by the window, my favorite one that wobbles. I tuck my legs under me and read. I see stars that don’t exist, a sun that sets and rises, and when I look up I am startled by the white Portland light streaming in the windows, people crossing the street to the changing lights. I look up at the black rimmed clock. I feel a heavy weight in my own chest. Not sadness, but knowing that I am creating my own life. I am independent and have surrounded myself with the people and things I love. This is my place and I will continue to struggle and continue to be filled with joy. I sit at my wobbly table, perhaps with a stranger on the other side of it, and watch the people walk past me outside. I read a small book of poems by e.e. cummings. It is so lovely to think of someone else’s hands holding it. Someone, somewhere, bought this book and turned it page by page.

I come here by bus or bike. I walk in the door and my world falls away. Time doesn’t matter. I allow myself to forget about the list of things waiting for me. I could stay here forever, and sometimes I do. I come to read entire books. Stay until it’s dark and then walk out into the night.