Some people you only meet in libraries. Where the bookshelves protect you and connect you and line the outside borders of your relationship. You represent to each other the transformation that overcomes you when you are there. They are your partners in this endeavour of thought. They are your only constant in the inevitable alterations that shape you forcefully, lovingly, and continuously.
He sits quietly, with both hands holding his phone, a slight hump for a back and agitated feet. By looking at him, you might think he is waiting for some important news through the phone. But he is just lonely, sitting with virtual images filling him with emptiness. Across the study table is a girl with an empty cup of Earl Grey tea who seems to be taking up more space than she feels is appropriate. She channels her discomfort with herself into the dispersed notes, textbook, lab manual, and laptop that occupy a carefully studious radius around her.
She bobs her head to music as she types up her anatomy notes. He notices her ring.
He comments, it looks like a neuron.
Oh, this? she says, it’s a starfish!
Interesting. He sees it now.
That’s not a neuron, he says.
She smiles without any further thoughts to express. He thinks he looks stupid and uneducated. Of course that’s a starfish, why wouldn’t it be?
The guy wears a Blue Jays baseball cap backwards over his long combed-back hair. He has an extra-large coffee cup and a laptop out on the table. Not so much space occupied, despite the huge cup. He looks like the type of guy she would expect to meet at some bar downtown, who flirts with you but doesn’t mean it. He looks like he’s wasting his time and money going to university. She’s trying to become less judgmental but she can’t help her disapproval.
What are you studying? he asks her quietly.
Anatomy. I have an exam in two days. She replies.
He doesn’t know anything about anatomy, which he involuntarily admitted in the first conversation. She won’t even talk to me, he thinks as she whispers back, you?
I’m working on a philosophy paper. He smiles sheepishly and looks down at his coffee.
Oh, what kind of philosophy? She’s intrigued.
This essay is on the ethics of euthanasia. I’m just trying to figure out how I feel about it.
Huh, I love that. Feelings have never been relevant to any of my courses. But they can provide so much insight into your thoughts… I’m Caroline, by the way.
I’m Jordan. Nice to meet you.
She waves to him as she walks by. He does not see her. She is too weak and shy to call out his name.
When Caroline looks up, she catches Jordan looking at her, but he suddenly looks away and then timidly looks back to see if she is still there. His eyes lightly twitch in embarrassment as she quickly continues to work. Jordan thinks she must hate him. Caroline thinks he must think she hates him.
The only food she can cook is pasta. And when she does, it is consistently fantastic. He takes the large wooden spoon in the pot and serves each of them a portion. He smiles a small, timid smile as she starts to eat. Finally a day when she has a good appetite. It has been a while since she ate like that.
They walked in the dusk when it was past fall but not yet winter, in the restlessly unpleasant pre-holiday atmosphere that choked the street. They felt nothing – no fear, no joy, no sadness. Or perhaps only sadness as a result. They stepped slowly. He was holding the leash, she was holding him in one hand and the umbrella in the other. The air got darker with each heavy breath but they kept going. They were running away in a loop. Running away from themselves, their pasts, their futures. From me. I saw them wither in the wind, losing their balance on the downhill path, being pulled forward forcefully. What was pulling them?
Her chin is pointed down. Un-kissable.
The room is dry in colour and in ventilation. There is only arid heating in the desert-like hospital offices, with patients and nurses walking by in the hallway, peering in from one desert into the other.
A man with a hat covering his entire head is reading a book slowly; not because he is a slow reader, but because he keeps looking up to see who is walking by. The man was a musician, they said. Is he bald? I can’t tell. He looks ill. Or unhappy. Or both.