I want to share with you, as the name of my site presents itself, a short story I have been working on, in hopes of entering a contest.
I had walked for hours, listening to the shuffle of shoes across the asphalt, the horns of vehicles, thinking this would be enough to nudge the traffic into more than a mere halt. I watched as the sidewalk became cluttered with people, appearing as if they were talking to themselves, as they pushed past one another, shoulders touching, yet no acknowledgment that they had made physical contact with someone. I could smell cinnamon and vanilla as I passed the bakery. My eyes closed as I let the smell envelop my senses. The sound of chewing and slurping seemed to echo down the streets. On almost every corner I could see a food cart; a man yelling, “Get your hot dogs!, Hot dogs!, Get your hot dogs!”
I passed the subway entrance, the sound of the train’s brakes screetching, the whirring of the wheels sliding to a halt, as it entered the station, pierced my ears. I listened for anything that I hadn’t heard before, that would drive my thoughts into the place I needed them to be. I couldn’t get the words to form in my head. I couldn’t see the setting of where it should be. The mundanness of my life wouldn’t let me see past the everyday. I had a deadline to meet and I had already pushed for a few more months to put something on paper. I had entered the dead zone.
I walked into the library, mere glances from behind their books. Each table covered in books, opened to a designated page. I assumed I wasn’t the only one who needed to get something on paper in time. The librarian, an old man, one who I hadn’t seen before, watched me from over his glasses that were resting across the bridge of his nose. He nodded at me as I walked in front of the checkout desk. I nodded in return, a polite, nonverbal, hello in return.
I walked over to the fiction section, pulled a book I had read many times from the shelf and settled into an armchair, in the corner, where I could observe everything, every noise. A round table full of magazines separated me from the chair on the other side of it, unoccupied.
The swift turn of worn, overused pages; the scratching of lead across paper. I had been familiar with these sounds. My notebook left behind in my apartment, unable to record my thoughts. The man, once behind the counter, staring from over his glasses, was now occupying the chair opposite me, and I hadn’t even noticed.
This man, librarian for the day I presumed, with freckles that cradled the outside edges of his eyes, leaned forward and handed me a folded piece of paper. He sat back in the chair and crossed one leg over the other, intertwining his fingers together, resting his hands over his knee, sat and just looked at me.
I unfolded the paper. Inside were the index numbers for a book. I looked up at him, “What’s this?”
“It’s what you came her for.”
Puzzled, I asked, “How do you know what I came here for?”
“It’s what we all come here for when we don’t know exactly what it is we are looking for.”
This odd, little man, let out a chuckle, rose from his chair, and left me sitting there with my thoughts, and the questions that begged to be asked. I had nothing to lose. I walked to the shelf that kept the book I was intending to look for. Inside the cover of the book was this man’s picture. He was an author of several books I noticed as I scanned the shelf for his name. When I looked down and read the inside jacket of the book, I noticed this man had been deceased for many years.
I walked to the edge of the isle and looked in the direction of the desk. A young woman had replaced this man, I was sure had been there. I walked to the desk, not wanting to sound crazy, but asked anyway, “Where is the old man that was here before?”
She turned around and scanned the area around her, “Sir, I am the only one here today.”
I checked out the book and left the library. He had indeed given me what I was looking for, the story of a lifetime.