A special Valentine

[Editor’s note: I wrote this a couple of years ago, but the sentiment still holds, and it’s appropriate for the series. What, I’m recycling :)]

{from ASU}

Name: Makafui F.

Country of Origin: Togo

My father taught me how to read when I was three years old. Everyone in our family had a role to play. Mine was to read the satirical column for my parents every evening. I took my job very seriously. My father’s advice, ‘Lis a haute voix!” . So every night, i read aloud, making sure i emphasized and paused at all the funny parts.

From the paper, I moved on to diverse books. I was in love. At the turn of a page, I was a blond swedish girl with braids in the Alps; I was hanging out with Sherlock Holmes; with a flick of a hand, I was standing beside Moses facing Pharaoh or washing African cloths with the girls at the riverfront. I sympathized, I chastized, I empathized with the characters. For a brief day or two, I was somebody else, somewhere else.

While other children played and discovered life outside, I remained inside and got more acquainted with others from faraway places. In fact, most of the arguments I remember having with my parents centered around my treatment of books. Just as dolls suffered terrible amputations and accidents from the hands of merciless children, my books suffered crushed spines, dog ears,stained or torn pages. I was in love, but showed it in a violent way. For me, books were to be read once and only once.

When it was time to adjust to a new culture, I turned to books to show me the way, the language, the customs, the rules of writing, speaking, being. Maybe 13 is an awkward age to start over, or maybe kids are just cruel in seventh grade, or maybe it was my inability to quickly make friends, but this time too, I found solace in the middle school library, away from tauntings and mocking glances.

While I moved through three different high schools, I came to notice that no matter how different all the places and circumstances were, the libraries were all the same. This sacred place with books became a security blanket I carried with me all throughout high school. In fact, I got kicked out of the last one near the end of senior year…for ‘being there too much’ . I felt like a rebel, just as hardcore as any of the troublemakers,for being kicked out of something…even if it was the library.

Coming to Cornell, I quickly noticed its majestic libraries, but I find myself spending more and more time in them, not to revisit an old friend, but to write papers, attend meetings, attend to Life. Right now, I struggle to find a good book that will move me to tears or laughter or both. A book that will make me miss sleep or lunch or Life. However, there’s life to be lived, prelims to be taken, people to be met.

So, we haven’t completely broken up. Our love has only been put on the back burner because…because I’m simply too busy. Yet, I know that twenty years from now, it will only take a second for our love to be rekindled, one page at a time.

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