I was at the local public library this evening… dropping off some books that I had recently finished reading (and were soon to be due) as well as acquiring a few books pertaining to material I would be teaching on in the coming week.
I had checked the library`s catalog online before leaving my house, so it was simply a matter of locating the texts within their respective sections – a precautionary measure I am wont to take because of my natural tendency to linger long among the stacks of a library, a habit I formed in the years of my youth.
While I was perusing through the stacks, and previewing the material as I found it, I began to notice the repeated occurrence of being in the same section as another patron – a young woman in her early to mid-twenties.
Normally I would not regard such a “coincidence” as being entirely remarkable (after all, Norman`s public library is hardly the Library of Congress), but my overaggressive sensitivity to my surroundings (a trait, I would add, I am rather adept at disguising) dismissed the likelihood of mere happenstance after the third encounter.
Despite being aware of this, I shoved it to the back of my snickering mind. While silly thoughts of conspiracy and espionage entertain my subconscious for a moment`s musing, my cold reason bats away such frivolities for the sake of the task at hand. It has been a long day at work and I am eager to get back home…
Suddenly the stranger approaches me and, looking at the books I have cradled in my left arm, mentions one of them by name and asks if I`m going to be checking that one out. Distracted by the congenial intrusion, I pause to consider this… before politely answering that I had intended to but had no great need to possess that volume at the moment. I then held up the book and offered it to her, to which she thanked me in a somewhat fawning manner
I considered the matter over and continued on in my endeavor – but she inquired as to my opinions on the book, its author, and the material with which it is concerned. To which I offered a few middling responses that, I hoped, betrayed my inability to invest considerable discussion on the matters without appearing aloof or disinterested.
Unperturbed by my seeming haste, the young lady followed me to the next section and continued to talk about these (and others) matters – as though I had opened a porthole on a submarine.
I tried to extricate myself as gracefully as possible, but the young woman was eager to talk with me… a trifle overeager, it seemed. What is more, some of her lines of discussion I thought to be inappropriate for someone she had barely met. For example: after noticing my wedding band, she started talking about her own desire to someday get married but she was unable to find someone with whom she would be willing to settle down. “Guys my age can be such little boys,” she said at one point.
Finally, I was forced to take some relatively drastic measures. Hesitating for a moment before the front desk, I offered her my hand and wished her the best of fortune. To this, a shadow fell across her face and I thought I saw a glint of hurt in her eyes – but she shook my hand eagerly, and offered to contact me whenever she was finished with the book. I assured her that it was not necessary but that I certainly appreciated her offer. To this I turned my back and approached the librarian behind the counter.
As I drove home in the private darkness, I thought of the event in epilogue and wondered about the encounter… the strangeness of it, and the bizarre undercurrent of her eagerness. Unless my senses have taken leave of me, it seemed that I was being “courted” in some strange sense – and that I had but to show even the slightest interest in her and she would reciprocate. Curiouser and curiouser…
More than this, I wondered at her apparent loneliness, and wondered at the loneliness that far too many know… the loneliness of being estranged from Him.