The library was quiet, except for the occasional sound of papers flipping, chairs scraping on the floor, and the printer dancing on the corner table. The familiar smell – the smell of books – reminded me of a cozy log cabin where we had stayed last month in Colorado. The rear side of the library overlooked the Crystal Lake lined with oak and willow trees. Its glass wall offered a gorgeous view, plenty of sun kisses, and a magnificent sunset as an added bonus. Needless to say, this was my favorite spot in the library. Today, the library had more people than usual, but I managed to catch a glimpse of few familiar faces sitting at their usual tables, doing their usual things.
A man in his 40’s surrounded by an array of newspapers. What is he looking for? A new address? A new job? A new wife? An Asian mom and her young boy; they always came by 3 and left by 5. The boy was busy with school assignments and the mom, buried under a mountain of papers. Did they live in a small house with too many people making too much noise? Did they come to the library for the space and the peace? An elderly woman with a limp and a cane and her middle-aged son sitting alongside each other. They didn’t read or write; they just fiddled around with their mobile phones. Did she always have that limp or did she have an accident recently? Is the son out of job or just taking a break to help his mom? A medical student, who liked to carry her world with her; her books, lunchbox, coffee mug, cookies, jacket, and medicine bottles scattered all over the table. I often saw her pop pills, several times a day. Is she ill or is she just trying to stay awake? Does she even sleep; poor girl! she looks so tired! A 20-something man, who always dressed in formals, totally focused on his laptop. Is he an accountant? Like me, did he come to the library to work? Is he married? And, my most favorite character – the woman in black. Even today she wore a black dress; the dress had a few holes, and so did her shoe. Her hair was tied up in a bun with a few strands dangling down her face. She came early and stayed up until the closing time, and all day long she just flipped through magazines. Is she homeless? Is the library a refuge for the day? Is all of her life stuffed in that tiny tote?
I have been coming to the library, twice a week, for about two years. So, my association with these characters goes back a long way. I like it when they are here; they bring a sense of familiarity, warmth, and comfort. As creepy as it may sound, I like watching them, traveling inside their minds, and trying to make sense of their thoughts. I even bring some of these characters home, and think about them when I’m cooking or cleaning the dishes. I may not know their real names, but I call them Mr. Newspaper, Darling duo, Twin beans, Doc in distress, Shirt man, and the Black beauty. Like a scriptwriter, I have given each of these characters a unique personality to suit their external persona. Often I think about talking to them, but I hesitate. I worry they would turn out different from what I have thought about them.
Through the glass wall, I watched the sky bleed; the blue canvas now smeared in red. How glorious the sun looked even when she was sinking. As the sun disappeared in the dark water, several thoughts appeared in my mind. A belief that it just takes a familiar face to brighten a day. A crowded yet quite room can help you find solace in loneliness. Sometimes, a hushed rustle of pages can calm and soothe the restless heart.
Feeling like an enlightened person, I started walking home with books in my hand and a library of characters in my mind.