I take a water break before getting downtown and sneak a peak in the box. It's a silver bangle bracelet with a logo printed into it. It has a sparkling gem and I shove it onto my wrist to see what it looks like. It's really heavy. Why would anyone want to wear this? I wave my arm up and down. I feel like it would just bang against everything all the time. I look at it up close. Maybe there is a computer in there. Maybe it does something cool like alert you when someone or something is nearby so that you can avoid them. Maybe it records something automatically. People love that crap. Like counting how much they ate or walked or laughed or took a shit. How many times did I do something "good" so that I can feel better about myself when I see the data later, maybe even reward myself. Or how many times did I do something "bad" so that I can punish myself later. Do punishments and rewards even work? People are always saying they don't work but everyone punishes themselves anyway. Maybe wanting them to work makes them work. Or does wanting them to work make them fail to work? I always wondered if the tradition of punishments came from people just wanting to hurt their kids or animals becuase they are angry, and as the children/animals changed their behavior out of fear, people started trusting that it "worked" great. And if it's good enough for "our kids," it's good enough for grown adults trying to learn new behaviors, right? But somehow along the way they forgot they were doing it out of frustration and hatred.
It's probably just some boring designer that rich people like right now. It's probably counterfeit. I place it back into the box and tie the ribbon over it again. It takes a couple tries to get the ribbon right before I can toss it into my backpack on top of Mix's hoodie.
The trip to the library is fairly pleasant. It's still too early for it to be miserably hot, and the traffic is slow and easy to get around. But the sun is still beating into me. I turn onto flower street and approach the entrance. The Los Angeles Public Library - Central Branch is a sleeping cream dragon built from tan stone over 300 years ago. The words "Et Quasi Cursores, Vitai Lampada Tradunt" are blocked by the heads of two carved figures holding lists of philosophers, all men. Their eyes vacant, staring out into the street. Never have I seen a glimmer in them. I wonder if they were ever home to anyone at all. It's hard to imagine their faces painted and sparkling with life like the god-forms their creators imitated.
I hop up the steps on my toes past a series of pools that are home to some grumpy spirits. I shouldn't bother them so early in the morning. The library doesn't open for another half hour and they deserve every last bit of rest before the school children swarm the place, screaming at them and chucking unrequested offerings into their home. There is a small half circle in front of each pool where some juicy trash gifts have collected beneath a metal cast of a human face who looks up into the sky. Each step is covered in the same text painted in a different language. Does this draw in more spirits? One of the scripts looks like British sigils, indecipherable even to the writer. Sometimes I feel this occult tradition leaking out of the buildings in this city. How many past Los Angelenos attributed their success to a foreign magic they learned from a book? How many still try to brew old spells from days long gone, hygienically preserved in online graveyards?
I bang on the door. I never know if the Directory bothers to confirm with the client that I will, in fact, be there. They always seem somewhat surprised to see me, like they didn't really believe that their request was heard and they are just sitting inside praying that I show up. Then here I am, their neon pink angel, sweaty and impatient to take or leave their parcel. Central Branch, though... I have been here enough times to not surprise them. However, the Information Studies student on the other side of the door today is looking especially confused.
"We don't open for another half an hour," they say, looking me up and down. I look over at the camera bulb on the wall. I'm standing in the shade and not sure if my hair flare will work. But there is no sign of light glowing through the camera. I take off my goggles. Re-Chron is good about switching off the cameras on mornings that they call me in.
"Yeah I'm here to talk to Daicy. She wanted to see me before all the tourists flood in." I slip my headphones to my shoulders. The student wrinkles their nose at the word "tourists." "Right. Okay. Follow me, we'll find Dr. Foldrick."
I move through the security gate and past a food court. The inside of the library looks more like a modest museum entry, more than the ancient tome tomb that it is. But the chill air and low ceiling remind me of a cave. A kiosk recalling the history of the building stands in an inner courtyard surrounded by a maze of velvet ropes to guide tourists to the registration desk.
"Could you just wait here, a minute? I'm not exactly sure where Dr. Foldrick is..." the student trails off as she heads down a hallway toward an elevator. I skate around the central pillar, reading the timeline of the library... ... Fire on the morning of May 1, 1986... Rebuilt in 1993... Additions in 2042... Copyright Law banning physical media established in 2050... Library reopened in 2053... Second fire April 27 2106. Both fires in Taurus? That's weird... Rebuilt in 2108...
I'm surprised there isn't any propaganda talking about the physical media ban, considering how much it changed the library. Maybe they want to appear neutral or at least complicit. But doesn't their complicity make them look even more suspicious? Maybe the time to suspect librarians of violating copyright law is long gone. Is this display of the library's survival advocating for the survival of physical media by metaphor? Sometimes I try to imagine what it was like to be able to borrow books from this place 200 years ago. Did people wait in these same lines with stacks of books, waiting to bring them home? Back then, you could rent as many books as you wanted at a time. People were probably stuggling to stand in line, with all the books their arms could hold. Did the library have more books than could fit on the shelves because so many were rented out? What happened in 2050 when everyone had to return their library books? Was the library suddenly overwhelmed with books? That must be why the basement is so full of books not on display.
"Sugar Baby!" calls a voice from down the hallway.