The first week, I spent reading every title from the aisle labeled 800's: Literature & Rhetoric. When my parents came to collect me, I would produce an armful of plastic covered treasures to borrow until the following week. The head librarian would chuckle at my choices until she figured out my system. Up the left side of the aisle, down the right, memorizing my spot by the Dewey decimal system.
I became so skilled at remembering where things should be based on numbers and letters that I began volunteering to return carts of books around the first floor. Working up a sweat just to push that heavy laden cart was a perverse thrill to me. I would imagine the authors chatting amongst themselves about the scrawny child with too-big glasses and a Joan Jett haircut, determined to soak in every word - especially the ones she didn't quite comprehend.
The world outside the library was distorted. Growing up in the ghetto, you're not encouraged to dream big or make lofty goals. When you do, adults were at the ready to smack you back down to your proper place: reality. Little girls who like books more than people, and knowledge more than the acquisition of things are not well-liked in the ghetto. My father was too busy working to help me. My sister was too young to fight alongside me. My mother simply did not understand me (as was the case with most adults I interacted with).
The library was my sacred place, my sanctuary. Nothing could hurt me in my sacred place. Nothing bad or uncomfortable could ever happen within the walls of my sanctuary. I was the closest thing to me in that space. I was the closest thing to free.