Chapin City Blues

Writing is writing whether done for duty, profit, or fun.

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For the sake of my mental health, I decided to go for walks. This isn’t a new thing for me; in the past, it was what I did almost every day after work. It started off as something more serious – I’d walk and began pushing myself further until it was a sprint, a job, a run.

These days though, I walk in hopes to build some strength back in my lungs.

And, of course, to people watch.

For those wondering, people-watching is essential to creative writing – be it fiction, nonfiction, or poetry. Jose Skinner taught me of its importance, though it had been a pastime of mine for some time.

When you observe your surroundings with a creative eye, you register things that would otherwise be overlooked. The way a young wife moves away from her husband when he sits next to her. Or how a child darts across the street while his mother scrolls across the screen of phone. Or the mannerisms of a young couple.

They paid no mind to the scent of rain that lingered in the air; they were more focused on studying each others smile. The groove between their hands, their teeth. With the first drops, she pulled him into the open space. They wrapped their arms around each other.

It took me back to a moment in life. One taken for granted. When a girl pulled me outside to kiss in the rain.

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Let’s talk about The Stand, shall we?

I am not a Stephen King aficionado. And while I love the movies based on his works, I am not even his #1 fan. I have read a few short stories, a couple of his Kindle singles, a novella, and an amazing audiobook narrated by Michael C. Hall.1 In fact, the only novel-length book I’ve read by Stephen King was his post-apocalyptic book, The Stand.

My first encounter with story came from the 1994 miniseries which aired on ABC. It starred Gary Sinise, Molly Ringwald, and a whole bunch of actors that I’d see on TV and movies throughout my adolescent years. While it didn’t have the best production value – it was a made-for-TV miniseries, after all – it still captivated my 11-year-old imagination. It became my gold standard for post-apocalyptic tales, especially those revolving around pandemics that wipe out humanity.

I didn’t read the book until 2009, when I found a copy at a used bookstore. This copy was a 1980, mass-market paperback which mirrored the 1978 hardcover; the only difference between the books – other than the obvious – were the date changes. In the 1978 edition, the apocalypse happed in 1980; in the paperback, the apocalypse was moved to 1985. For those not in-the-know, the 1978 edition was meant to be a much larger work; Doubleday had warned King that a book of such size would be too much for the market to bear. It wasn’t until 1990 that King’s original vision for the book came to fruition.

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I grew up with the public library just walking distance from my home. I remember my first library card, and the man who gave it to me. I’d checked out the same two books on constant rotation – dilapidated copies of King Kong and Godzilla books. Memories come rushing back, flooding my mind with the scent of the card catalog, the crack in my voice when I asked for assistance, and the moments spent looking out the window to the small atrium – if you could call it an atrium – within the children’s department. Part of me wanted to live in a library – and, in some sense, I do – or at least work within one.

When the Edinburg Public Library closed its doors, the Dustin Michael Sekula Memorial Library opened. The library was named after a boy I knew in high school who was killed in the Iraq conflict three years prior.

The switch between libraries happened in my final year of college – I went to one library in the winter of 2006 and the other in the spring of 2007. I remember the confusion from the change, and wondered if the library card I held would still be valid. (It was.)

My days of unemployment, working odd gigs and contractual jobs, were spent hanging out at the library during poetry readings, performing my works, and borrowing books. When Jeanna got pregnant with Shaun, I knew that my days of just getting by were over.

In November 2011, I attended a job fair hosted at the library. One of the booths was for the City of Edinburg, and one of the positions was for the library. Because he was present, I asked the assistant library director – whom I met during my stint as a local poet – about the position. Of course, the job required an MLS degree, however, he did let me in on some information. One of their children’s staff members was retiring and a position would soon be open. Adding, that I should keep up with the city’s website and talk with the library director.

I did both.

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I’m thinking of quitting my job. And that scares me.

It scares me, because I have nothing planned out for the aftermath. There isn’t a plan b. For the last decade, my world has revolved around the library. It has become my identity.

I was Guillermo, the library aide. Guillermo, the library assistant. Guillermo, the cataloger. Guillermo, the second in command of the children’s department. Guillermo, the interim children’s supervisor. Guillermo, the senior library assistant.

Guillermo, the library/cultural arts assistant II.

Who am I if I am none of these things?

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