Remember that time I ran into you at the grocery store and you cried? I think I might have been in high school so I was taller than I was when we met, but you still remembered. You looked the same. You were slim in your jeans and yellow down jacket. Your hair was, maybe, a bit more grey, but you still wore it cut short in a style that seemed to say, "hair isn't the most important thing."
You said, "Tanya, my friend, it's so good to see you." You hugged me and when you pulled away, you kept your hand on my arm while we talked.
Your fingers were tapered, but with thick knuckles. Those fingers seemed old to me, though strong, too. You held cigarettes in these fingers, played the piano with them and trailed them along the spines of the books in your library.
Though it belonged to my elementary school, as far as I'm concerned, it was your library. Located in one of the "portables," not a building, but a barrack, the library smelled like paper and dust and linoleum cleaner. The tables with their wood grain formica tops took the center space and the books covered floor to ceiling shelves on every wall. You sat at a small desk just inside the door. On the desk's surface were a ball made of rubber bands, a date stamp and a ceramic mug filled with yellow pencils. From this vantage, you would direct me to different shelves.
"Try reading about Clara Barton," you said and then, "If you liked Clara Barton, you'll love Marie Curie."
When I asked for books about magic, you gave me "The Witches of Worm," and "Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley and Me." When it was cold on the playground, you let me into the library to read.
One day, you let me sit at one of your tables and draw pictures for all the kids in my class. "A rhino," someone would say. And I would draw it. "A giraffe." "A hippo." I moved my crayon over the paper as fast as I could, relishing the rare feeling that I had talent and that I was wanted.
"There is no better company than a book," you said. Thank you for letting me know I would never be alone.