This weekend I am participating as a human book at the Penrose Branch of Pikes Peak Library. I’m transforming myself into ink and paper, large font for those of us without 20/20 vision. I will be a nice thin volume sitting on the “Must Read” shelf, my illustrated cover depicting wildflowers, little blue birds holding a banner the title on it in golden gilt letters.
It would be a sweet dream come true for this wanna be a writer. That isn’t how it’s going to play out. A dozen or so of us have been chosen to tell our stories, personal stories about a part of our life which makes us each a bit unique. Patrons and others will make 20 minute appointments to speak with us and have a conversation, leaning towards the interview side of things about ourselves. We have amongst us Human Books a 1960’s Unwed Mother, a 90 year old, someone with Autism, Campus Assault Survivor, Christian homemaker, a person with Depression, Disability, Felon, Female Merchant Sailor, Homeschool Parent, Native American, Refugee & Serbian concentration camp survivor, Schizophrenia, Self-harm, Sexual Abuse Survivor, Single Mom-3 kids 3 dads and a Transgender.
The library held a training session for us books. At a point they had us count off, one two, one two, to break into groups of two to practice answering and asking each other questions. Our individual identities had not been divulged although it was a drop-kick to pick out the Ninety year old man and the Disabled. I wondered if anyone would want to group up with me having been accustomed to be the last kid picked for the teams in phys-ed and largely ignored at recent family functions. Sure enough, I was left standing alone until a staff member directed the Disabled to wheel themselves over to me.
One of the objectives is not to judge a book by its cover. The lines in my face are a long shot from a pretty floral picture. I’m a short woman shrinking annually. The lines in my weathered face show some disappointment, a map of the road less traveled, not a party invite. I’ve gotten accustomed to being overlooked or misunderstood.
These days I work at the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. Last weekend I was stationed to sell Romaine lettuce for visitors to feed to our Giraffes. Three bucks for a “feeding”, five for two feedings. One guest appeared at my window and asked if I could break a large bill. Expecting to see Ben Franklin or Ulysses S. Grant on the face of a piece of currency, I was presented an oversized, overvalued $2016 piece of a joke with a thinner, younger combed over President Trump on it. I wasn’t humored. “Sorry,” I responded, “only valid currency please.” Politics is a subject I avoid at my place of work.
“Aw, come on. You are a hard-core lifelong Republican voter, I can just tell”, the customer joked to me. “I can read people pretty well. You voted for him, admit it. And you drive a Subaru, too.”
“I voted against him. My candidate wasn’t on the ballot.”
“Who was that?” he pressed on.
“Bernie.” I gave the guest his appropriate portion of lettuce. Smiling I thanked him for his purchase, and before he turned to the Giraffes I finished, “and I drive a Miata.”
After our group encounter at the training we reconvened in our original places. We went around the room stating which ‘book’ we are. I will remind you no one was interested in speaking with me at the get-go. When it was my turn to say “What’s My Line” most of group overwhelmed me with surprised admiration. Suddenly I became the star of the show. Some of you having been familiar with me for most of our lives know my title, most of you not. I will close this only by adding I was elected by my High School Class as Most Athletic and an “Ahoy.” I’m the Female Merchant Sailor.