I walk to work every morning. I leave my apartment at 7:30 and am behind the counter by 7:45. I start by grabbing a cart full of books and returning them to their correct shelves. I think to myself that I must be one of the few people left in the world who know and understand the Dewey decimal system.
After the cart is empty, I return to the counter and sit and wait for someone to show up. I have coworkers, but they aren't very friendly. I rarely speak to them. My boss, Atticus (which is a quite fitting name for a librarian), almost never has a shift at the same time as me. A few kids come in on the weekends to play on the computers. Other than that, it's mostly old people that come in. I get the occasional high school students that come in for research for school projects.
There is one regular that has always stuck out to me. He's a young man, probably my age, that comes in at least once a week. Sometimes though, there are blocks of time he won't show up at all. He looks too good to be in a place like this. He's always checking out these fancy books in different languages. A lot of them seem to be about science or history. Sometimes he will rent books out. Other times he will just sit and read in the library.
One day, I went to work like usual but I was taken off guard when someone was waiting at the door. I was always the first person to get to the library and the last person to leave. It wasn't normal for anyone to be there so early.
"Hello?" I asked, walking slowly up the steps to the building. The man turned around and I was pleasantly surprised. It was that man. He smiled timidly.
"Hello. Sorry for being here so early. I didn't realize that you wouldn't be open yet. Then again, 6:30am is pretty early for a library. It is a federally funded building after all. I doubt that it's very often there are people needing books so early in the morning." I just stared back at him. "Sorry, I'm rambling."
"It's okay. I'm just glad you're you and not one of the creepy old guys that hangs out around here some times."
"You don't know that I'm not creepy," he said simply. My lips curled down. "Not that I am creepy! I just meant, you know, you can't be too careful. It can often be the least menacing appearing people that are the most dangerous. But I'm not!"
"Yeah.." I let my voice fall off.
"I rambled yet again. I'm sorry. Again." I smiled lightly and brushed some hair behind my ear. I didn't hate his rambling. It was endearing.
I peeked around him and held my keys tightly in my hand. "I kind of need you to move for me to unlock the door."
"Oh! Of course!" He stepped aside and motioned forward for me.
"Thank you" I unlocked the door. Before I could reach the handle, the man had done it for me. I thanked him again and walked inside. "So, you've really been here since 6:30?" I looked down at my watch and saw that it was now 7:40.
"Yeah," he said. He sounded embarrassed by the fact. "I couldn't focus on anything so I thought a book would help. I would've just read something from my apartment but I've done that already. Many, many times actually."
"Wow," I sighed. "And I thought that I loved books." He laughed lightly.
I stepped behind the counter and the man stayed on the other side. It was then that I realized he had books to return. He slid them across the counter to me. I surveyed the old books. I didn't have a clue what language one of them was in.
"Did you enjoy these?"
"I did. Thank you."
"Well, I'll scan them in. Enjoy your reading." He stood there for another moment before turning away and disappearing in the shelves. I watched after him. I realized then that he was walking with a slight limp.
After the books were back in the system, I added them to the cart. I pushed my way through the rows putting everything back. I found the man again in the ancient literature section. He was sitting on the ground. I watched him leaf through a large book. The way he glided his finger down the page confused me. Was he actually reading that fast?
" 'Scuse me," I said. He looked up at me. "Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you. I just need to get the cart through."
"Oh okay. Sorry." He started to get up and knocked over a stack of books he had been collecting beside him. He said something under his breath as he fumbled to pick them up.
"It's fine. Let me help." I got down and started to pick up the books. I helped him set them all on the lower level of the cart. He stood up and held a hand out to me. I accepted it and let him help me up. "Thank you." I tried to hide my face because I knew that I was blushing.
I took his books off of the cart and handed them to him. I pushed the cart down the isle, putting away the books that he had returned today. When I went back past him I gave him a smile. He smiled back at me before sitting back down.
I put the cart away and got to my waiting. I opened up a box of new bookmarks and started to fill the display. It was deathly quiet in the library except for the occasional sound of closing of heavy books from the section the man was in.
A phone call filled the room for a moment. It ended and the man began talking.
"Hello? Yes this is Dr. Reid. Yes. Got it. On my way,"
The man jogged out of the shelves with 3 books in his arms. He dropped them onto the counter. I scanned each one quickly since he seemed to be in a rush. I gave them back to him.
"Thank you!" He said, placing the books into his satchel one by one. "I'll return these next week."
I watched him leave and sighed when I was alone again.