(First time visiting during this year's A to Z Challenge? Start here.)
"Long time, no see." Every week, on Thursday afternoons, Gerald the librarian greets me thus. For awhile, I wondered if he was being ironic, or perhaps this was some sort of inside joke between us, except I was not really on the inside. After months and months of this, though, I have decided that no, this was just his way. Perhaps sitting behind the desk for hours each day, accompanied solely be the beeping of the checkout scanner, he really does lose track of time. Or maybe this is how he greets all of the patrons of the Engleburg, Iowa Public Library, a way of falsifying the familiarity that people expect from a man in his position. Or maybe a week really is just a long time, if you think about it. It can certainly feel that way.
Having received my weekly greeting and handed off last week's stack of completion, I roll to the elevator and punch the number two with my stubborn left hand. It lights up. I ascend.
Exiting, I roll toward the fiction second. Even though my eventual destination is predetermined, I peruse the shelves with interest. I begin at the end, the place where I will never arrive, and view the titles there with the sort of longing that I imagine a bespectacled shrinking violet of a high school student feels for the captain of the football team. Not that I would know. I was a cheerleader. The quarterback was mine for the taking. Or I was his, so to speak.
As I pass through the T section, I espy several books by Mark Twain. I seem to recall that Michael, the freckled boy that got away, thought that Twain was quite humorous. I could, of course, use some humor in my life these days, but T is still a long way off. I roll on.
With effort, I twist my left wrist toward me and scrutinize the hands of my watch. 2:27 pm. At 3:30, Arina will arrive, smelling of exotic curries, to give me my bath. It is time to get down business. First row, second section, third shelf from the top. Making it to the third shelf was a relief, as the books are within my grasp. The third shelf is my favorite. Next week, I will be down to the fourth, where, if I stretch and turn in just the right way, I will still maintain my independence. After that, I will require the assistance of whichever gray hair volunteer is willing to come to my aid. But today, shelf three. The sweet spot.
I run my finger across the spines. I glance briefly to my left. The vanquished titles of months gone by. The week that I read five books by Isabel Allende was a great one. But now, I am firmly entrenched in the letter B, and will be for weeks, perhaps months to come.
To Be Continued.