This is not a love letter. This is an apology.
Remember when we used to see each other all the time? It was great, wasn’t it? You, me and a whole lot of Doctor Who novels hanging out on a Tuesday afternoon after primary school. Who knew that all of time and space existed within your dowdy walls?
Like Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, another story you shared with me, we even went travelling together. A new town in a new country always equalled a new library card.
When I was penniless, jobless and miles from home, you were there. You oriented me. You filled my head, my backpack and my hours.
And yet, and yet, we have drifted apart. Well, you haven’t. You have remained resolute and steadfastly selfless. Your doors and books are still open.
I hate to sound like a cliché, but this is so painfully true: it is not you, it is me. I am a wayfaring reader. And I am sorry.
We haven’t been in a relationship for years. Not a real one anyway. Sure, when they talk of closing you down, as they often do, I tut and profess this to be A Bad Thing. But then I blithely move on.
I have relegated you to a mere Tweet of diluted, obligatory outrage. Those long afternoons huddled together are gone. A hundred and forty characters are all you get these days.
I talk a good library, and words may be the currency you trade in, but it has been an age since we properly saw each other. I mean, I’ve visited you many times, all over the world: Trinity, Bodleian, Mackintosh, Sainte-Genevieve – your many names like Disney sidekicks.
But I now go as a tourist. I go as a lapsed believer goes to a cathedral. I do not visit to engage with your spirit. I visit to gape at your spectacle.
I’ve swapped crossing your threshold for building a wan imitation of you at home, effectively becoming an Amazon-sponsored reading hermit.
This week, as part of Book Week Scotland, writers and the public are sending you lots of love letters. They thank you for the many roles you serve: as a silent paradise, as a bulwark against mass ignorance, as the reason why we write.
You deserve all those admirers and much, much more.
I would like to add to that pile of love letters. I would love to say I still love you, but I can’t. Neglect has calcified my love into mere admiration. This can’t go on.
What say we put aside an afternoon, sometime soon, just for the two of us? We’ll find one of your corners, a battered chair, and a dogeared book set in the deep blue of space. The rest of the world be damned.
Let’s fall in love again. Please.