Vignette #4: The Library
We battle the stroller through the door, butt and hands and handles and wheels until the door slams us in fast. We press the button that doesn’t light, while Little O shouts ell-ator! ell-ator! Doors open and shut, open and shut, and we’ve made a big deal out of them, these ell-ator doors, so his mouth goes wide into a Home Alone scream-face, until we’re there, we’re in, arranging our stroller inside clusters of other strollers, and he’s nagging at the stroller straps until he’s out, somehow, before they’re even undone.
He’s at the little kid computers before I can snatch his hand from drumming the keyboard and mouse, before the librarian can say, no banging the keyboards, with this bored look, like why did anyone even bother to set up these computers with the old software and the twelve number long passwords anyway.
Little O runs to the rug, dusted in goldfish cracker crumbs, rolls on the padded round chairs the way he saw the older kids do, then he drags a wooden chair from where he shouldn’t, and while I’m at the shelf saying try this one or this one or oh look at this!, he plops himself down to read all the books we already have at home.
On Fridays, I go alone. I drop the already-read books down into the whistling spring at the bottom of the book well. I scan the on-hold shelves for Sarno and find my books waiting. I slip them in my backpack, then I write.
I set my laptop near bushy blonde-haired Pat. She reads the New York Times. Sometimes she swaps sections with an elderly man, their movements like two acrobats passing lilting scarves. She tells me, each time, without fail, that I’m a member of the laptop generation. And I laugh.
Sometimes I sit on the second floor, next to a man with a calculator and notebooks of numbers and charts. He’s mustached, tall, smiling, and he always informs confused patrons that they’re on the wrong floor when a stroller finds its way to the top. We watch one another’s lumpy coats and packs when we have to use the bathroom.
I look down, over the railing, at two sides of a library. On one: schoolbags huddle over piles of coats, kids on their stomachs next to book stacks, toddlers running back and forth banging keyboards.
On the other, laptops and computers glow in their neat rows, and Pat, with inky thumbs, turns the pages of the Times.