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The Library Girl

the library girl

New York in 1977 wasn’t the nicest place to be. The city was bleak. Metaphorically gloomy. And physically dark when the city experienced an ominous and wide spread blackout for 25 hours. The streets were tough. The subway, scary. Time Square was where ladies of the night continued working during the day. Welfare spread through the city like an infection.

  

And Spanish Harlem….well, it was the toughest of them all. Race riots ran rampant, gang warfare ruled the blocks, and crime and poverty became ingrained within a generation. In 1977, those with a nerve dared not venture past 5th Avenue unless they were from there.

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But not all who lived in the darkness were dull.  There was one girl who paced the pavement without fear. She lived in a tidy apartment block that managed to remain unscathed from the scares of the street. It was still a dangerous place, but she wasn’t afraid to brave a few storms. She didn’t mind the cracks – she had grew to see beauty in the blemishes and compared to her flawless upstate up-bringing, the cracks were nice for a change.

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Those in Spanish Harlem knew her as the library girl. Each morning she’d sweep the streets in billowing pants and tweed, up to the state library to seek out truth and knowledge.

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Most days, if the local kids on her block had been good, she’d sneak some books for them in her shiny red satchel.

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“The library girl is here!” the kids would yell, “she’s come to tell us stories.” Sitting on her apartment’s stoop, the neighbourhood children would gather with eyes wide and ears straining, eating up every word she spoke with hungry minds. Words of heroes and villans, tales of good conquering evil. Their eyes would light up at the thought of magical lands that shone with gold, and princes that could rescue them from the darkness.

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Sometimes the library girl would tell her own tales. Of love lost in Santorini and days spent at bording school in Paris. She’d teach them french and in return they’d teach her spanish. Smiles for once, came easily and giggles bounced off brick walls and flooded the streets.

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And in those moments, Spanish Harlem was the only place to be.