N exercise 2.8
The library on a sunny Sunday is filled with older people in no particular hurry. Most, though not all, have a book or two in front of them, or a nespaper propped open on a knee. They flip through the pages of their books, clean their glasses, check their text messages. A guy with a black bandana hanging out of the back pocket of his jeans, wearing a Roncesvalles Ave t-shirt, checks a computer, but sees something there that doesn’t agree with him, and he walks away. There is the smell of sweat, of bodies exposed to the heat outside. The air conditioning, so weak as to be the barest disturbance of the stagnant air, spreads the smells around.
A lady in a fuchsia top pops a tic-tac and starts writing with a blunt pencil inside a spiral notebook she’s got open over the other books arrayed around her – accounting stuff, maths, a calendar. She glances around herself often, but a spark of discipline seems to take her in these moments, and she snaps back to her work for a few minutes. Somewhere in the back, by the children’s area, a boy is wailing, while another child, a girl, woops and woo-hoos. A happy-looking tree in a planter stands sucking up the rays that bounce through the big east-facing bay windows. It must be bathed every morning when the sun rises. Outside, the wind is high enough to knock a potted plant onto its side, but in here, in the library, there’s not even a gentle rustling of leaves.
A bored but authoritative voice crackles over the loudspeakers concealed in the ceiling. It tells the remaining patrons that the library will soon be closed. The lady with the tic-tacs stacks her paperwork and books – it’s a university course she’s working on, as a mature student, it seems – and funnels it all into a patent-leather purse that she shoulders with an effort. A man in a graphic tee is sitting at a table, with his hands folded and his gaze fixed upon the middle distance. As the shadows deepen in the library, he doesn’t move. He’ll have to be asked personally by security to leave, and he’ll comply without complaint. The last librarian on the premises sits down at each computer terminal in turn and puts the machines to sleep. The rolling carts for shelving books are all empty now, ready to accept tomorrow’s load.
Later, a third-party cleaning crew will let themselves in through the back door and vacuum away the scents of body odour. The sun races west and the library is left in darkness, until the next day, when the light will shine again on the happy tree, changing its leaves from grey to green.