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  • Ken Ilgunas

Liddy Library

Oh Liddy. My lonesome library. I spend more time with Liddy than I do with all the people I know. That’s because I know almost nobody here. I do know Liddy, though.

I cloister myself in the back corner next to a reading lamp and an air vent. From my corner, I can see everyone in the room while not having to worry about someone peering at my computer screen from behind.

If a team of Hollywood set designers wished it so, they could transform Liddy into a medieval mead hall just by replacing the shelves of magazines and encyclopedias with the trophy heads of beasts and sword racks.

The windows are as big as ocean skiffs. Rows of large oaken tables function as reading troughs and a trio of brass chandeliers descend from the 40-foot high ceiling like spiders sprawled upside-down from chain-link threads. The room has an air of classic grandeur, which seems to magnify my loneliness.

Here—when I’m not doing schoolwork—I consort with some of my closest friends: Thoreau, Abbey, Bryson, Troost. Yet I secretly wish—despite all of my agoraphobic disinclinations and solitary penchants—to comingle with the many silent, studious denizens who I see every day, but never talk to.

I wonder who all these people are. The girls, especially. What are their names? Their interests? Their passions?

But the library is no place to socialize. You may be able to bump, serendipitously, into your next lover at a church, a bar, or a barn-raising, but you’re sure as hell not going to meet anyone at a library. There’s too much silence, too much concentration. We go to the library knowing what we want to do and what will happen. No one expects chance. No one even wants it. Except me, maybe. Besides, the unspoken (and rigorously-obeyed) rules of decorum leave little possibility for such a chance encounter.

Though, sometimes I’ll catch one of them glancing at me. Maybe even smiling coquettishly.

I’m usually terrified when this happens. I respond, typically, by pretending to focus on the screen of my laptop while reminding myself about the horrors of human contact.

Once, though, a freshman placed her hand on my shoulder and asked me to watch her laptop for a minute. Rather, she grinded her palm into my deltoid as if she was feeling for the ripeness of a cantaloupe. Later, she sat down next to me, pulled my book from my hands, and proceeded to tell me about her life, her interests, her passions, seemingly oblivious (or deliberately neglectful) of library convention and etiquette. It was my fantasy fulfilled. Her name was Andrea, she was beautiful, and—despite the air of indomitable confidence she carried—her hand trembled when she wrote her phone number in my notebook.

When she left, I closed the notebook with the number and never looked at it again. I opened my novel, leaned back in my chair and kept on reading, contentedly.


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