I found myself staring at the librarian, feeling stupid, choking back tears, unable to speak. I walked home, hand in hand with my two oldest daughters, silent and sniffing.
I got home and collapsed on the bed and just cried and cried.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Andy asked.
I took a deep breath and attempted to explain.
"I...I....didn't realize I'd let my volunteer status expire and now I have a fifty dollar library fine and I can't check out anything until I pay it..." My face screwed up and I buried my head in a pillow and sobbed some more.
All the pain and suffering in the world, and I was crying over a library fine. You've got to hand it to Andy for not laughing. As usual, he was kind and gentle, and didn't let on if he thought I was crazy. I certainly thought I was crazy. I'd racked up ridiculous library fines before. They had been annoying, inconvenient, and pretty embarrassing events, but had never before reduced me to an ends-of the-earth puddle of tears. What was going on now?
What was going on was simple: I had unwittingly fallen deeply in love with the library, and the library had rejected me. It didn't matter that the rejection was my own fault; it stung just the same.
Humans are designed to fall in love with Safe Places. A Safe Place houses our hopes, dreams, and love. They are places of security vital to our existence, and come in many forms. My Safe Places are usually broad abstractions: the commitment of my marriage, the laws of science, the hope that my spirit is eternal. It took me off guard when I realized I'd gone and made a Safe Place out of something as ephemeral as a building full of paper.
The library symbolizes the inspirations and dreams of myself as an artist, the connector and collector of ideas for me as a communicator. I leave little gaps of hope on the shelves where my books will be someday (nestled between Gaiman, N and Green, J). Those gaps represent a commitment that I will join in the Big Conversation and give back, in words and pictures, to a world that has given me so much. Today, fines held that entire world hostage.
I lost access to a Safe Place. Of course I cried about it.