Books were my closest friends in Brunswick. I had moved to the neighborhood in Melbourne on little more than a whim, one foot still in the closet. I was chasing a place I’d imagined would be full of other queer people, which would obviously solve all my problems immediately.
I thought if I just kept moving, like a shark, I couldn’t possibly be so sad, because surely I would find something that would fix it. But what I found was a 9-to-5 in a soulless office where I spent 8 hours a day alone in a dark room, methodically photographing decrepit old books from the National Library of Australia, submitting them as files to a cold warehouse full of blinking servers where they could live on digitally forever.
When I got off work I wandered Brunswick alone and usually ended up at the local library. It was a historic building with the sign “Brunswick Town Hall” left across the top, gutted by modern sliding glass doors that whooshed open automatically and long skinny fluorescent lights that hung from high ceilings.
At the back wall was a massive mural, a scene of antiquity — an angel playing a harp, a cherub, some guy who looked like Shakespeare — painted over with characters from another language, bright yellow dots, and modern geometric shapes.
Usually I would find a chair in a corner somewhere and read poetry books. Once I was reading The First Bad Man by Miranda July and laughed out loud so unexpectedly, I got up and left, a self-punishment for disturbing the sacred silence of the stacks. Most of the time I stuffed my backpack full of my paper treasures and went home to curl up in bed with them.
Inside books, I didn’t have to think about my loneliness so much. I was too depressed to do anything but fill my head with other people’s words, too exhausted to leave the house.
It was the first time since childhood that I had read so much. There was a library near the house where I grew up, next to the public swimming pool where I begrudgingly participated on the local swim team. The water was cold, and I was weird, and…