I am Not a Thief (c)

Books are devices. Secret keepers, with varying degrees of obscurity. Some willingly reveal what they hide to whoever asks, while others are rather good at keeping their secrets.

As for me, I am a seeker, a seeker of secrets, but no thief despite the label a certain person has recently attempted to attach to me.

Not too long ago, I found myself in a village, a small town on a mountain’s side. Not too far from that village, a couple, generous but a bit frustrated, wanted to open a library for the people of their town. They collected and piled books and then organized them on shelves.

As a seeker, I smelled the collection from miles away. The smell of secrets, inside books, is generally stronger and easier to detect and follow when it is concentrated, as would happen in a library. This is why I often found myself in libraries.

It was no different with this library, little as it was.

When I reached their town, I climbed some fifty steps to its center, found the library in a corner, and walked passed the door’s frame. It was immediate. I breathed in the smells of hidden secrets, the smells of writers’ intentions and discoveries.

There were four bookshelves on one side, gray, metal; two more on the other, green, elegant. I took another deep deep breath, and smelled the languages, some five or six different ones, and more of the thoughts of what the writers wanted to hide, and the ink that carried those thoughts and the wood that housed the seeds behind them. So much. So many.

One at a time, I whispered to myself. One book at a time.

One more breath and I found what I would start with. About wind. Something related to wind, but really about how to trick the wind… how to understand it, how to sense what it carries, how to escape or evade what thoughts it carries and associated ill-wills and wrath.

“Hello.” I turned to a young person sitting by a large rectangular table. “I’d like to take a book.”

“We are not lending right now,” she said. “We just opened this library and don’t have a system yet. Hopefully soon.”

Not lending? I frowned at her. “This is a library. Is it not?”

She laughed. I wanted to ask, why are you laughing?

“Hopefully soon,” she said again. “You’re welcome to sit and read here.”

No. That would not do. My work requires seclusion and freedom. Leisure without fear of judgment, without the presence of eyes and minds, without restrictions and limitations of short periods of time.

Her assertion required that I rethink and readjust. My hand scratched my cheek, then my chin, and I nodded at this young woman, as in, whatever you say. Then I turned, walked to the side with the four gray metal bookshelves, and disappeared between the two farthest from this library keeper.

Stepping between the shelved books, I felt the keeper’s eyes recede until they completely disappeared and their gaze could no longer find me; and, I was alone between the shelves. Just me, and secrets. And within seconds, just me and all about maneuvers against the wind and its cargo.

My glances swayed to a thick book, a red and charcoal spine on the shelf second from top. Horus’ Winds, it said. Horus…

The falcon? The Egyptian deity? For sure, the form of a bird would know all about wind.

I pulled it out and looked at the cover. A statue with a raptor’s head glanced back at me. It was Horus.

We meet again, Horus.

I felt the book shake. I felt the statue’s head nod. This book would be mine, for a week or so.

I put it under the brown vest I happened to be wearing, and inside the top of my pants; found my way away from the shelves, and through the library’s door, back to the center of the village.

And I was right. A week was all I needed. The secrets were excellent and helpful. More for my collections, cataloged under Forces and Motions.

I went back for a second. Drawn to the same isle, thankfully away from the keeper’s gaze. Placed Horus back, and followed a new scent. It was on the lowest shelf. I pulled it out and looked at a drawing of a green maze, grass or corn, with small shapes of varying figures like the Minotaur with bulging eyes, Venus, and Surya each looking back at me. The book exuded aromas and odors of life’s challenges, and the secrets to dealing with its monsters, cooperating with the benevolent and maneuvering its twists, hence the maze.

This was an impressive library considering its size. I wanted to say as much to the keeper, but decided to avoid an interaction and started on my way out.

The keeper stood up. “Excuse me,” she said.

I stopped by the door’s frame then turned to her. “Yes?”

“Don’t you want to read inside the library?”

“No. But thank you.” I crossed the threshold and walked away, with the second book under the same brown vest.

This second book was awash with hidden information. I managed to get through a third of it on that day, and decided to catalog it under Solutions. However, apparently this little but impressive library, with its generous and charitable but frustrated and confused founders, was of the modern kind. It had a camera… A camera that recorded me during my first visit, and my second. And so, the next morning a letter was delivered to my room requesting my presence at some office in the municipality’s building.

“I explained to him on his first visit that the library was not the lending kind, not yet at least,” the library’s keeper said. Next to her stood a couple, likely the library’s organizers, or owners.

“And I gave him another chance the second time he came in,” the keeper continued.

This keeper wanted to be an obstacle to my learnings.

“And?” It was a fifth person, sitting behind a desk. A fan whirled and buzzed a foot or so away.

“And on both occasions he stole a book from the library.” This keeper was persistent, and annoying. Certainly uneducated.

“I did not steal anything,” I jumped in.

“You walked out with two books when you knew well you were not allowed to do so.”

Her anger was carried across to me by the breeze in the room. I felt its demands, its intent on obstruction, its insistence that I stay away.

But I too had intentions, and I knew no one may make secrets unavailable, locked away. Sure they were hidden between covers, but that is not the same as kept away and out of reach.

“I returned the first book,” I responded.

“You took it without permission.”

I cleared my throat. “Borrowing is not theft. Theft is entwined with the intention to deprive permanently. I returned the book. I never had any intention to retain it for myself.”

“If you insist on convincing yourself of that then you must acknowledge that you deprived others from reading the books you took.”

That of course did not make any sense, especially considering their short open hours, but the dilemma would not be resolved with continuing this… debate. I opted to try something from the mazes book, and from my Solutions catalog.

“I have an idea.”

“No thank you. You are…”

It was not wise to allow the discussion to continue in that direction. I interpreted the scents and understood that they would request I not return; that would be tragic. “Please listen. Restitution or some other similar measure would not be appropriate considering that I did not steal. But I can offer to help build a policy and system for borrowing. And I would help implement it.”

The person behind the desk seemed amused, hopefully at my proposition. Raised eyebrows followed by a few nods indicated as much. “I like it.” Then, turning to the likely organizers or owners and the volatile keeper, the person asked, “What do you think?”

The couple chatted among themselves.

The fan turned to the left and blew against a wall.

“It would be a good solution,” I said, hoping to support a turn to the favorable. “I would need, however, free access to the library’s collection.”

The fan turned again, and again carried something with it and left me thinking a bit more. It was a sense that the two were not convinced. It was a feeling that more coaxing from me was needed, perhaps to support my claim for needing unbridled access. “It is necessary to build a reliable index, and also, I am hoping you trust me enough by now… that I am not a thief.”

A bit of a gamble on my part, but such a gamble, I learned from the last book, would sometimes be necessary and possibly handy.

One of the owners/organizers seemed to smile. The keeper however exuded the opposite, looking down, frowning, odors of rejecting me, rejecting defeat, and strategizing a response.

I again searched my catalogs and recent entries. A smile back could do, the thought crossed and hovered. So I turned my eyes toward the owners/organizers, and… smiled, with my eyes, with my mouth, with my face.

It is so strange, so perplexing, but so simple; yet, simplicity can move mountains… Shifting the energy in a space; changing a course; choosing a future most favorable.