I only went there to get my tax forms. Though I’ve lived in the neighborhood of Cleveland Park for almost seven years now, I think the last time I went to the library was to return a book so many years overdue they’d removed it from the system (one easy way to evade late fees). But that was years ago.
It’s funny how reluctant we act when faced with unfamiliar territory, particularly places where we know we should feel welcome, but never visit. I’m shy about asking the librarian for a 1040. But after my stealth corner-of-the-eye glances around the main room — trying not to look like I didn’t know what I was doing – merit nothing, I meekly walk up to the librarian. She looks busy.
“Do you have 1040 forms. . .?” I could tell she knows my type. Only there for a purpose, get the goods and leave.
Mind you, I consider myself a bibliophile. A book addict, actually – there’s nary a text I’ve met that I haven’t wanted to fondle covetously. Used bookstores, small independents, even those twin book megalopolises . . . heaven & havens. But libraries. . . like many, I’m too lazy to return, so I’ve checked out.
And in my absence, it appears that the local library has morphed into a new kind of community, comprised of a diverse population of ages, races and ethnicities. Homeless folks in ragged clothes, serious north African students, a very old man with enormous glasses — sans coffee, this crew focuses not on the aimless opining of coffee shop culture but instead upon humble study of other people’s published knowledge.
But the thing is, no one looks bored, languid, or stricken with ennui. Without wireless to divert them – the internet line is hours long – they’ve focused on a more old-fashioned, practical purpose: doing something with their minds in the too-quickly passing time.
As I’m leaving, I see a stout, ex-military-type older man lurching down the sidewalk with his walker. Despite his difficulties, he seems self-sufficient; he’s moving deliberately and with what looks to be a singular purpose. I watch as he makes an abrupt turn onto the ramp and heads into the library.
So now I’m back at my desk in my comfy apartment, blaring my iTunes for ambient noise, fresh coffee brewing in the kitchen, internet available exclusively for my use, daydreaming and gazing at the beautiful redhead outside my window. It’s a woodpecker — not a girl — knocking its little nest into a hollowed-out nook of a maple tree.
When I get tired of solitude, I’ll probably walk over to Tryst, grab a tasty iced coffee, ease back into a broken-down sofa and try to monetize some creativity. If that doesn’t work, there’s always people-watching. I can embrace the feeling of being one of those young, edgy types who are open-minded, capable and confident enough to embrace alternative ways of living life during the hours most people know as the 9-to-5 grind.
But I’m already longing for some more time with the good folks at the library.