You’ve likely heard a similar story. There’s a place that you always seem to find comfort and relaxation. Something that could be considered a sanctuary or a safe haven. A place that helps through difficult times. Sorry, my mind likes to wander. “The rule of three.” Have you heard of it? Not sure what it means but it has something to do with these specific connections throughout the day. For me it was a library, the librarian, and an umbrella. I suppose I’ll tell you how all three fit in to just one day.
Jobs are always hectic. Sometimes we dredge the moments we go into work. It’s usually my second or third thought after, “What the hell?” I take a shower to start the day. Everything is a process. Even the pile of clothes in the hamper that’s slowly starting to overfill. It just means today’s laundry day. I’ll have to get it this evening. Right now, I needed peace. Right now, I needed my sanctuary. Oh please, like you’ve never procrastinated doing chores once, or three times in my case.
My attire for today consisted of long gray shorts that went past my knees, a yellow shirt with a comic logo on the top left side, and a skullcap with my favorite anime title on the side. These days I’ve started to feel comfortable in collared shirts, because of my friends. They’ve been telling me to, “Get out of your comfort zone.” They’re somehow always right, which is usually every day. In this case getting out of my comfort zone has started to make me accept one true fact, I love Hawaiian shirts.
Today was not about being comfortable in my awesome Hawaiian shirts. It was about going to the library. After my hot shower, and some clothes, all that was left was the twenty-seven-minute walk in the rain. They can be more enjoyable than I ever realized. The size of the building doesn’t seem very impressive but it gives off a comforting feel, as if I was going to a little house on the countryside. The best way I can describe the actual building seemed more like a brick cottage nestled in a wide open space field. The entire building and parking lot took up nearly a quarter of an acre.
As I walk in, to my immediate right is the children’s section. It’s no bigger than my living room. On my left are the various rows of books with multiple genre. Even today they somehow seem to expand. The varieties are not as big as I would have expected. In the far corner are three glass-walled rooms. Silent proof and usually used for meetings. I use the rooms constantly for a little solitude and isolation. It’s become of a habit now and something I’ve started to consider norm-
I look up and before I even have a chance to wave, my smile instinctively lights up. I cover my mouth to try and not look like a complete fool to the librarian.
Her names Beth. A young petite woman with, best described by her, with a pear shape body. She’s clearly not a fruit. Unclear as to why I’m stating the obvious, but I’m starting to see how people can compare fruits to certain body types. I’m still uncertain when that started. It’s how Beth describes herself sometimes. She likes to joke that she used to look like a pineapple before becoming the perfect pear.
A few months ago…
Like most of my days, I wake up, taking longer than it should to get out of the bed, do a quick workout, followed by a hot shower. After everything I began my walk to the library. Halfway there, it begins to rain. Droplets slowly pressing against my cheek. With the last few minutes I run the rest of the way trying to avoid the rain. It’s hopeless but that doesn’t stop my legs from running. I couldn’t even see the building clearly, almost as if I was staring at a blurred picture.
When I finally arrived to the building I checked my watch and was surprised to see I had twelve minutes to spare. Twelve minutes outside as the rain poured. I checked my watch as twelve minutes slowly turning into nine. Those nine minutes were the new start in my life. A second chance to try and talk with Beth.
The first time I met her she had started just a few days after I was considered a regular visitor. The first thing I remember saying to her was, “blargh.” I don’t know if why I said that, or if it was a nervous tick, or I tried to say “Hello” and played it off as a strange burp. All she did was stare for the longest few seconds before laughing hysterically. Her voice was soft yet high-pitch that I was little surprised. She waved and I responded with a smile. Only a smile.
“Even when it rains you show up? That’s pretty desperate to read some books,” Beth said smiling.
“History in your hands,” I mumbled. “Plus I like the feel of turning the pages.”
“Not the best response,” she said, “but since I don’t see you speak at all, this is really a surprise. These things called words, when they come out your mouth, try using them more.”
“Prefer to read them.”
She hands me her umbrella. I look at it thinking how unnecessary it is now.
“For when you leave,” she said insisting I take it. “It’s supposed to rain all day.”
“Then you’ll just get wet.”
“I have a car,” she grabs my hands giving me the umbrella, “and from what I’m told, you like to walk a lot.” She turns opening the doors.
Did she wait outside for me? I think to myself.
It was a short interaction but somehow, comforting. Overtime I learned of a young woman growing up and was told who she was to become and how to properly live. That she had to become the type of man she was born to become. Yes, you heard that part correctly. She was told to help her father’s business. Never embarrass the family or what they stood about. At least until she left home.
She told me about her birth name. Never forgetting the name, but no longer needing it. The ridicule she received from her family, especially when she had the courage to tell them how she truly felt about herself. I had watched and read the stories, heard what people have gone through growing up. Trying to figure out who they are in the world. No matter how you look at it or try to understand, I could not really comprehend what others have gone through. When I look at her, the only person I could see was Beth. The beautiful librarian that recommends a book whenever I arrive.
“I think you’ll like today’s recommendation,” said Beth, her voice sounding a little hoarse than usual. “Sorry,” she clears her throat, “went to this loud ass bar last night. Meet someone, who apparently thinks it was O.K. to act like a gentleman. Until after his third tequila shot. Or was it my seventh mine? They could not hold their liquor,” she laughed. “Sometimes you take a chance-”
“And risk it all,” I said walking closer to the counter.
Beth flushed. “Yeah, sometimes you can try.”
Now’s the time, I think to myself. It’s soon but now’s a good time. I smile and open my mouth ready to say speak and say…anything. Anything at all. My heart begins to race hat I fear she might be able to hear it the darn thing.
“Do you have,” I lower my head, “any recommendations?”
Beth’s smile seems to falter. She turns around looking through a few stacks of returned books. “I know it’s here,” she said moving them around. After rummaging for a few minutes, “Here it is.” She pulls out a small book, but surprisingly thick. “‘Hidden Machinations.’ A story of a young man who’s too afraid to ask a pretty young,” she emphasized, “lady out to dinner. Or lunch? Maybe it’s that new bar down the street? The places always seem to change every time I read it,” she wiggled her fingers in front as if trying to mesmerize, or I suppose hypnotize me, “like magic.” Beth was never subtle with me. Always straight forward. It’s why I knew so much about her. How we became friends over the passing months. She handed the book and lingered as I took it in my hand. “I think the protagonist can be a little indecisive. Although I was surprised at the end.”
I took the book reading the authors name and plot summary. “Mrs. Tuner brings another thriller mystery of twists and turns in her new epic trilogy, ‘The Long Con.’ Beverly has trust issues with their partner after the last betrayal. The complications of their secret lives quickly coming into the open as they battle one another-”
“To prove each other that they’re better. A competition seeming to be out of passion rather than rivalry. Is this just another game to Beverly? Going toe to toe with his old friend, or is it just another plan in the game he hopes is the last and final ‘Long Con.’” Beth took a bow as if she had memorized the entire thing. I returned the gesture with a soft clap and bow.
I hand the book back along with my card. She takes items scanning each one and returns them telling me the books due date. Her smile falters once again. I head to one of the meeting rooms in the back.
Around noon I had nearly read half of the book. My interest surprisingly intrigued by the characters decision in how he seems a little too repetitive in the beginning. I began to ponder the choices he would make. Who he would betray for his own needs. The sacrifices he’d make for, and even against, their partner. Even now there are times where I still try to figure out how Beth knows what books I would enjoy.
I looked up seeing Beth as she restocked books, categorized discs and research information, and somehow able to flaunt her long skirt and buttoned blouse. She’s told me a few times, “My casual clothes are my work clothes, and my work clothes are for the bedroom.”
The entire day had consisted of the librarian and myself with no one else and no interruptions. It was the perfect quite day. Every so often Beth would stop in to check on me. I would respond usually with a simple nod or thanks. We ate outside for lunch earlier in with a one sided conversation. I tried joining in but every time I opened my mouth my hand found something to shove in the hole and began chewing.
About an hour before the library closes and I know it’s time to leave. Sadly the day had come to an end for us both. I didn’t make any progress in talking to her. Starting an actual conversation. It’s not pointless, but maybe I’m still not ready.
I looked over a few books starting in the fiction section, moving through the science fiction, and finally ending in the fantasy genre. Down this section I see Beth standing in the middle of the aisle. She skims a book flipping through the pages. She’s clearly distracted, or distracting herself from something. I turn around ready to leave and stop. There are times I would seem completely dense, and oblivious. Then there are times where someone wants you to hear their story. In some cases, they may actually want you to be part of their story. Even I know I can’t read everything. I do need to listen harder.
Turning back around, I started walking down the aisle stopping next to her. Beth turns to me and cocks her head to the side in confusion.
“I never know if I’ll say the right thing,” I yell.
Beth stares wide-eyed, clearly surprised by my abruptness, and likely due to the fact I just yelled in the building. She grabs my hand leading me back to one of the meeting rooms and sit across from me. I continue to stand.
“The rooms are silent proof,” she said looking to the glass walls. “In case you need to yell again.”
I looked around seeing no one else within the building. A few deep breaths and I feel ready. “I’ve been told that I needed to break out of my ‘comfort zone’ recently. It’s something I’ve been regretting with every passing day. I never know what to say, or if I’ll say the right thing.” I look up staring at her. It’s the first time she has a look so serious it surprises me. No laughter. No smile. It’s something new and I’m curious and want to understand. “You infuriate me.”
“And somehow infatuate me as well. You make me want to try something new, but I wouldn’t know what to say or do. Beth you’re-”
She stands up, pulls me forward, and we kiss. She’s stronger than I realize and somehow just as amazing. I close my eyes taking in her moist lips.
My eyes open and I find myself standing at the end of the aisle. I haven’t moved. My foot is in midair and Beth is staring at me wide-eyed. My mouth is completely wide open and dried out. My heart is racing so fast I’m scared it could actually rupture. She walks forward and slowly pushes my leg down with her finger. She pulls out a black marker and a bookmark. She writes on it then places it in the book.
“I’ll help give a little push out of whatever…zone you seem to be stuck in,” said Beth, as she hands the book back. “For now anyway. You’ll have to make the next move.” She leans forward kisses my cheek. She turns back around and continues rifling through the book. “My knight and shining armor,” she whispers and pretends to wiggle her fingers. “Or am I yours?”
I walk outside into an unexpected downpour. Doesn’t seem to be clearing anytime soon. I pull out my umbrella, the one Beth gave me, and the bookmark. It’s her number with a quote, “Not all stories have a happy endings.” It’s a phrase from the book and I can’t help but laugh. “Maybe this is a start to my next chapter,” I whisper to myself. I saved the number in my phone, looked up to the rain, and begin heading down the street opposite home. It was time for a new route today.