The fascist library, she called it.
Where the books were locked in and available for three hours a day to the public, maybe.
Fiction by Lejla Demiri
Art by Chris James
Editor’s Note: Language choices were stylistic.
About The Author
Lejla Demiri was born in Roma – a thinker.
A thinker is a storyteller. A thinker is a listener, an observer
Loneliness isn’t there when you’re surrounded by sunflower fields and words.
Being an immigrant for all her life, Lejla is a certainty and a mystery.
About The Artist
Chris is a graphic designer and visual artist who resides in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He enjoys living a mostly hermitic lifestyle with his family while striving to perfect a range of visual art techniques, honing his culinary skills, and chasing the heels of technological advancements. His current interests include 3D design, animation, AI technology, and puppet making at the behest of his oldest child.
Como is paved by cobble stones. If one is not used to a European Centre, that’s the most surprising difficulty to face. Early in the morning a depressed short girl, overweight and wearing under the black layer of the clothes she decided to wear that morning. On a summer day the outfit that was supposed to slim her down ended up betraying her. She’s constantly stare at herself in every window, looking different every time. Expecting something her eyes will never see. Objective recognition of her image. If somebody had told her she liked just like anyone else, she wouldn’t notice as everyone else’s opinion of herself had absolutely no value. A curse and a blessing at the same time. Dehydrated to lose water weight she gets there and waits at the gate for the library to open. She got in, no one was friendly. The fascist library, she called it. Where the books were locked in and available for three hours a day to the public, maybe. Don’t you dare ask questions, sit there and look at your own material if you have any. She was puzzled by the system. It never stopped to amaze her, not even when she left the fascist town, not even when she moved to a pretend democracy. At least that democracy had good public transport and libraries with stocked bookshelves, available even without a document.
Another rainy day, the same outfit that was supposed to slim her down, crazy puffy hair due to the humidity, she walks to the library. In front of her was a young boy, tall and skinny. A black child with a lost look in his face. They go up the stairs together as he asks for her help to find the desk of a lady that works there. He asks in English; he asks for her name and he tells her his name in a shy quick tone. She didn’t understand it. I wasn’t Italian and it wasn’t English. She decided to let it be, maybe he didn’t want to repeat it and have her mispronounce it. She wondered how many people mispronounced it so far. He asked the lady at the front desk if he could borrow a book to learn Italian. The girl had to tell him that they weren’t available at that moment. The boy was so confused and so was the girl, she wanted to find an explanation but she herself was horrified by this statement. The girl asked the lady at the front desk when would any book be available, and if there were any for foreigners starting from scratch. The lady replied with her squeaky Italian voice only to say :
- Gli serve la tessera.
She told him that to borrow a book he needed a library card. Good, let’s get a library card.
The girl asked the boy for a document. From the look on his face, it was clear he didn’t have one. He doesn’t have one, she tells the front desk lady as her racist face showed her pure potential.
- Come non ha un documento? Non è possibile.
It would have been useless to try and discuss it with her. A state where the librarian pretends that you need an official document instead of just filling a form to get a library card, is a state that doesn’t care about itself. She told the boy. His big, gigantic eyes started to tear up. He reminded her of her mom. Innocent, kind, immigrant. She knew she wouldn’t have set foot in there again and that’s how it was. She started looking for her document, but she could only find a notebook she used to track down her calories. Out of everything that’s what she could find. That’s what she remembered to put in her bag. Water in case she felt like fainting, the notebook and schoolwork. She looked at the boy, said sorry and sat at a table pretending she was going to study at all. Not more than twenty minutes later she was sick to her stomach. She never saw the boy again.
Years later, safe under the blanket of that fake democracy she chooses to hide under, she thinks of him. She wonders if she did the right thing or not. Maybe she should have asked him to repeat his name.