space, void of people

I woke up when a hand was gently nudging my shoulder. My neck was stiff. I was still sitting in the library chair. Dr. Hausner was gone. “Miss, I am afraid we are closing.” A woman’s voice. I looked up. Ms. Clarice stood right next to my chair, smiling. All other visitors were gone. I got up drowsily and carefully checked the window reflections, too. All visitors were gone. “Are you alright?” Ms. Clarice inquired. I looked at her closely. Her small golden earrings reflected the fluorescent library lights, transforming the miniature reflections of the library on the convex mirror of the gleaming curves  into a warmer, more elegant version of the actual space. An alternate space more suitable for someone like Dr. Hausner than the mundane space of Summerville library.

“When did Dr. Hausner leave?” I asked. Ms. Clarice narrowed her eyes. She ignored my question.  “You must be very tired,” she replied, “go home and sleep.” “Did you see him?”, I insisted. “Go home and sleep, Miss, I have to switch off the lights now.” I wanted to protest but she anticipated my notion and gently shoved me along. “Come back tomorrow,” she repeated, not unfriendly. We walked down the staircase together.

There was nobody downstairs either. From the winding staircase I could see  the lower floor breathing calmly. The tessellation of the carpet tiles looked like the exposed skin of an ancient creature. An empty library is a marvelous space. Really any space empty of people holds some kind of promise that seems to disappear once it gets populated. When I slowed down to linger on the staircase, I felt Ms. Clarice’s warm hand on my shoulders again, encouraging me to continue down the last few steps. I sighed. “It’s beautiful, the library, “ I said apologetically, “at night, I mean. When all the visitors have left.” We reached the ground floor. I took care not to step on the lines of the irregular tile pattern. I have never been quite able to just move without paying attention to the rhythm of any kind of tile, responding to it in some way, and today was not the day to start with it. Ms. Clarice remained silent while I gingerly crossed the open space. I wondered if I ever would get used to people not answering. Strictly speaking, I had not asked a question though. Ms. Clarice looked the kind of woman who did not have an appreciation for idle conversation.

She waited patiently while I balanced over to the cubbies to pick up my bag. I pulled out my jacket first. A small piece of paper trundled to the floor like a feeble bird. Folded from yellow legal paper. I bent over and picked it up. Ms. Clarice was still waiting for me at the door, so I simply slid it into my pocket, shouldered my bag and walked over. She still smiled, never once complaining about the delay. “Good night now,” she said simply. I nodded. She locked the door right behind me. It was cold outside. When I turned around, the lights in the library had already been switched off. The building looked deserted. I started walking into the evening.

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