At least three times a week, I leave work and walk two blocks over to the library. I go to write and if writing doesn’t happen, I hang out with and gently molest the books and dvd’s. Three good poems came out of my library visits the last few weeks. Like some expectant fisherman, I grabbed my gear of notepads and crossed through the mall to the library.
I made a point of remembering the name of the security guard at the door. She’s always been pleasant and friendly (The dude security guards? Not so much) and its enough to greet one another by name and nod. I’m a black man working in a law firm. A friendly face can be hard to find. Even in the mirror.
I approach the library and see the guard standing at the glass door. She smiles, pushes open the doors and then did something she never did previously. Starts talking. And doesn’t stop. Does. Not. Stop. I stand across from her and listens while she multitasks talking at me then greeting the steady line of people who came in. She punches the automatic door open for older white people, younger women with babies swaddled across their chests, and DHL delivery dudes. Fourth Floor, she said. Third floor and knock, she said. Otherwise, it was just us. Just me. My notebook and print outs go cold in my hand. A minute stretches to 15. She never breathes. Her face is bright and open and her eyes swing from me back towards the street, to the people coming in, then back to me. Never losing her place, never missing anyone’s stray question. Her sentences wrapped like an oroboros of her tongue, beginning with her daughter getting sick in the middle of summer camp, to her mother, to her body issues, to her job, to her high school friend, then back to her daughter. She seemed to empty herself, all the while apologizing– oh TMI this, oh I should let you go that, but never stopping. I remained present for her while she kept opening doors for mothers, men bowed over walkers, and a long line of graying, wigged women, many of whom turn to look me in the face as they walk past — though I look over their heads and offer no eye contact to anyone except the security guard. I nod to a former secretary who retired from my office a few years ago, her look saying she recognized me but couldn’t place me. No words were exchanged. Based on how I remember her, that was okay.
Around the 20 minute mark, the security guard began buffering her flow with I’ll let you go / I should let you go / I’m just prattling on / I haven’t had any coffee … I didn’t mind. I didn’t feel encroached upon nor did I want to flee. I wanted to be out of the office. I wanted to sit and write, though nothing sat in the chamber of my mind wanting out. Perhaps I was lonesome, perhaps I stopped out of general respect her, but mostly it felt so overwhelming and sudden as to be scripted. Out of nowhere there seemed to exist a need within her to empty herself like a geyser of oil. A compulsory fire burned that was beyond anything she seemed able to extinguish. Even if she’d covered her mouth with both her hands, it still wouldn’t stop. More older women approach the door, she pushes the handicapped plate for the double doors to swing open, and each passing head turns curiously towards me. I never look at or regard them. They were faceless to me as a pile of crunchy leaves being blown. Twenty five minutes. Thirty. And finally, Finally, she stops. She pulls herself away from the door — imagine a guard throwing herself out– and she gracefully returns me to my day, to wherever I was going, whatever I was doing. But I’d spent so much time with her it was better for me to go back to the office. As I motion back towards the street, she realizes I’m not going upstairs as usual, she slumps apologetic and places her hand on her heart. I stand in the door and say: You know, maybe I came here just for you. And I’m cool with that. My best to you and your daughter.
I let the door close.