“Josephine” dropped Walden off at 7:17 pm on a Monday, and she checked out another book right after. This meant that in approximately three weeks’ time, she’d return to deposit her new book. Obviously, I couldn’t just assume she’d be there in three weeks at the same time. No, I’d have to check in every day.
And so I did. Being unemployed (temporarily, of course), I had nowhere special to go. And isn’t there a romance to spending one’s day (after day after day) in a library? Like the protagonist in Murakami’s Kafka on the Shore. (The protagonist’s name might have been Kafka, but since I only read the dog-eared pages, I didn’t fully know.) The romance was doubled, in fact, since I was waiting to speak to a woman who, through shared literary experience, I believed, yes, I was falling in love with.
During my time in the library, I poured through the dog-eared Walden pages several times. Here was another insight into Josephine’s character:
“It is remarkable how easily and insensibly we fall into a particular route, and make a beaten track for ourselves. […] The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!”
A non-conformist to the core. A taker of the road less traveled by. My Josephine could teach me so much, and I her. She knew roads, I knew souls. Souls like hers. A wandering spirit, an independent mind. I imagined her preparing to work on an organic farm or teach English to monks. Or perhaps she’d travel the Americas in a yellow van with solar panels on the roof to power her little mobile kitchen, stocked with wine and coffee beans. Or if she’d settle in the city, be a spinster in a tiny house with succulents hanging from the balcony, a cat in the window, and chickens in the backyard.
For days I dreamed of her, day and night. How I’d speak to her, how effortless it would be. It would be like seeing an old friend at a restaurant. Like striking up a conversation with a family member after a silent stint at the dinner table. Comfortable, calm, effortless. I knew her, I had known her my whole life. Days of dreams, weeks of dreams. The world was her Walden Pond. No–I was her Walden Pond–something natural, something to live off of and for, something to build. Maybe she would write a book about me. Was she a writer? Yes, I thought she was. Ha! Of course. I knew that. Always.
She didn’t show up, though. Not for three weeks. Maybe today? Maybe today? No. But I didn’t have anywhere to go. I stopped reading dog-eared pages–how could I imagine someone else when I had spent so much time imagining Josephine? And I knew she hadn’t returned her book, because I knew what it was: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A book about a strong, independent woman. No surprise there. But the book hadn’t returned to the shelf, which meant she had not come back to the library.
Weeks turned to a month, and I was nervous. Didn’t she care about late fees? No, probably not. She didn’t care about wealth in the sense of dollars and cents. She cared about memories, experiences, self-reliance. I began to worry she was already off to find her metaphorical Walden Pond, never to return.
But I couldn’t let that happen. I wouldn’t lose her. I came up with a plan.
“Excuse me,” I said to the librarian. She gave me a curious expression, as though a bookshelf suddenly spoke to her. I had been such a long time fixture that she saw me as background. “A-hem,” I said. “Yeah. I put a hold on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and I’m the first one in line, and I need it for a class, and it’s not in, and I was just wondering if you could track it down, or, that is, give me an idea of when it might be in?”
The librarian blinked. Then she turned her eyes to the computer, tapped furiously for a while, then said, “It’s checked out. No telling when it’ll be back in.”
“Why not?” I asked. “When is it due back?”
“Well,” said the librarian, and my toes pressed into my shoes, hoping she’d spring my trap, “it was due back a couple weeks ago. It just hasn’t come in yet.”
“Why not?” I asked, showing impatience. “Haven’t you followed up?”
“We don’t really–”
“It’s your property, and you provide it as a service to the public. I need that book.”
Her lips flattened. She wanted to tell me I could just buy the book, but I was always right, so she said nothing of the sort. Instead: “I can email the account and request a return.”
“Is that not automated?” I asked.
“A phone call is in order, then. It’s easy to ignore an email, but phones are more insistent.”
She sighed. What a difficult customer I was. And it wasn’t as though I would tip her or keep the library from earning money. But she had a job. So she picked up the phone, rang Josephine. A pause. No answer. I looked expectantly at the librarian as she moved to hang up. She lifted the receiver back to her ear and left a message. Suddenly: “Oh, yes. Hello. This is the Edmonton Public Library… Yes, it is. … Yes, we would… Sounds great, thank you so much. Buhbye.”
She hung up. “Should be in right away. I’ll put it on hold for you–”
“Right away today?” I asked.
“I’ll wait here.”
I sat nearby, ignoring any further response. My stomach imploded in slow motion, but my mind felt calm. I knew her, after all.
There she was! And she–well, she was now wearing Lululemon leggings and a North Face jacket, but clothes didn’t speak to her spirit.
“Ha!” I said, walking up to her as though she were my budding fiancee. “I’ve been looking all over for that book!”
She held it to her chest and stopped walking. “Sorry?” she said with, I think, a French Canadian accent. How exotic! I hadn’t heard the accent in my mind, but it wasn’t an unwelcome discovery.
“I’ve had a hold on Dragon Tattoo for forever,” I said, laughing at nothing and everything. “How funny you’re the one who had it.”
“How is that funny?” she asked me, a little frown line appearing between her blonde eyebrows. Oh, so she wasn’t a natural brunette? Interesting…
My smile twitched. I could feel it. “Oh, it’s just funny because…” I stepped forward, but she recoiled, her body arching back but her broad legs remaining planted like roots. “…because I saw you drop of Walden a while ago, and I picked it up right after.”
“Oh,” she said. She wasn’t smiling. She looked around me, where the librarian was. I followed her gaze. The librarian was helping someone.
“Anyway,” I said, “I really loved Walden, so I suppose you’ve got a pretty killer, y’know, bitchin’ kinda… y’know, like,” (the word wasn’t coming to me, and her brown eyes bore into me, doubly so because I imagined her with green eyes) “uh…”
“…taste? In books,” I finished. She nodded backwards, pausing with her chin pointing up. “So what did you think of Walden anyway?” I asked.
“Oh,” she said, hooking her jaw-length hair behind her ear, “I didn’t actually read it. The style, the, ah, ho-ho-manliness of it?” She wrinkled her nose. “Anyway, this Dragon Tattoo is better. Not as good as the movie, but… Anyway, I must return it.”
I didn’t respond. She stepped around me, and power-walked to the return bin. She maneuvered wide around me the second time in order to leave the library. Across the parking lot, I saw her enter a Tim Hortons. From then on, I only read books new from Chapters.
Day 200(!!!)’s three random prompt categories were, “A dog-eared page,” “Gym equipment,” and, “Maybe this time.”
You expected a happy ending? From me? Pshaw.
200 prompts done though! Only 165 left. Can’t believe I’ve stuck with it this long. Hoo boy. Totes worth.