With one day left to finish writing her autobiography, Dr. Ficus started the day spunky. We had spent the last 364 days trying to find the quietest place on Earth for her to finish her work in peace. After hiking through forests and crawling through deserts, we’ve come back to her hometown library. While she was bargaining with the librarian to let us rent out the place for the day, I brainstormed more strategies to get my boss to wear my noise-canceling headphones. She had excuses every time I offered them. “They make my ears itchy.” “They squeeze my head.” “They don’t match my outfit.”
Dr. Margaret Ficus was a sensitive and stubborn woman. Any outsider would see a neurotic artist obsessed with her way of doing things, and they would be completely correct. Somehow, her OCD helped and hindered her work. It normally took hours to set up her writing space, and it would soon end once she heard a pen click without her permission. However, when she did write, she proved she was meant to.
If we failed to deliver a finished manuscript to our boss by the end of day tomorrow, then we would lose our funding. I’d be without a job. On the other hand, Ficus didn’t like to prescribe to any professional labels. She never really believed in money either, so getting her to understand these funds proved difficult.
This library was our last resort. Unfortunately, librarians are steadfast supreme beings of impenetrable morals. They are the most upstanding citizens by far, so no money could sway this woman to let us kick everyone out. I hated how good at her job she was.
After twenty rejections, we went back outside to think on the library’s bench engraved with the message of donors and supporters. Before this whole journey of nonsense, I disregarded those who paid to have their names on benches outside their favorite libraries. However, I limped behind Ficus for the past year and now understood the importance in doing whatever one can to support what one loves, whether it be a library or a manuscript.
I looked over at Ficus and saw her crying. She didn’t sniffle or contort her face in any way. Rather, she let the snot and tears fall. While I scoured my bags for a tissue, she put her hand on my arm and said, “There’s no need to worry. I’m just processing.”
After I saw the third stranger look at her, I got up and returned to the check-out desk. “Ma’am, do you have some tissues I could borrow?” Of course, the librarians provided me with exactly what I needed in an impressive and timely manner, yet when I turned around to return to Ficus, I saw her lunging up the stairs. “Dr. Ficus, where are you going?”
“Shhh,” all the other visitors said in unison. Obviously, these librarians ran a tight ship.
After tiptoeing up the stairs, I whispered Ficus’s name down every aisle. Once I peered around the end of the children’s fantasy section, I saw Ficus shooing away a child. She sat down on the floor in front of the bookshelf and took out her notebook and pen.
“Dr. Ficus, what are you doing?”
I smiled and cleared my throat. “Can I get you anything?”
“Those headphones you kept going on about. Let me try those.”
I smiled again and dug through my belongings.
With the coveted gadget in hand, Ficus sighed. “I hate modern technology.” She then proceeded to wear them. The plastic accessory clashed with her vintage wardrobe of tweeds and silks. She reminded me of a girl wobbling around in her mother’s shoes five sizes too big.
As she scribbled and I waited for her next request, I wondered why she chose this spot. The carpet tiles. The stickered book spines. The young adult section. What pulled her to this location?
“Yes, Dr. Ficus.”
“Can you get me some water?”
“Is that allowed in a library?”
“I don’t care. Figure it out.”
“Can I ask you something?”
“No matter what I say, I don’t think I can stop you from asking.”
“Why did you choose this spot?”
“This was my favorite place as a child,” she replied, before returning to her scribbles.
As I searched for a tightly sealed container of water, I realized that Dr. Ficus was a homebody. With our university just fifteen minutes down the road, she never lived anywhere else but here. Was it me or her who led the quest for the perfect setting for writing? All this time, did she know she’d return home to finish this project? As my mind continued to wander, I found a water bottle and made my way back to my boss. I placed the beverage in front of her. She then snatched it and chugged, never taking her pen off the paper.
“Miss,” a strange voice echoed in my head. I felt someone shake my shoulder. “Miss, the library is closing.” I squint and let the fluorescent light spill into my vision. I look over at Dr. Ficus, still writing. She looked the same, just a few hours older.
“How long was I asleep for?” I asked. She didn’t answer. I’d like to think it was the headphones’ fault, but she probably ignored me. I looked at my watch. 8:56. I stood up and stretched my back. “Dr. Ficus, we need to leave.” I tapped the open pages of her notebook. She didn’t like to be touched.
She looked up and pulled the headphones off. “Don’t touch my pages. I’m writing.”
“Dr. Ficus, we need to leave. The library’s closing.”
“But I’m not done writing.”
“But the library’s closing. We can find a different place to write.”
One minute later, we found ourselves on the bench outside. The librarians going home looked at us with contempt and empathy. They probably weren’t allowed to have people on their benches outside business hours, but they couldn’t help but support readers and writers.
Nine hours later, I woke up with the sunrise. To my left, Ficus looked the same as when I fell asleep. “Good morning.” I waited for a response and got nothing. “Did you write all night long?”
“I took two minutes to pee.”
“How did you do that?”
“You don’t know how to pee?”
“No, how did you write all night long? Didn’t it get dark?”
“Yes, it did, but the street light worked wonders. I’m going to purchase one for myself.”
“Dr. Ficus, I don’t think --”
“Finished.” She closed her notebook and placed it on top of a stack of others.
“Really?” I said with big eyes, despite how groggy I was seconds earlier.
“Yes, really. I don’t lie.” She positioned her purse on her shoulder, got up, and started walking. “Come on,” she said to me without turning around. After checking that I didn’t leave a notebook behind, I ran to catch up. Eventually, we made it to our boss’s office. While they flipped through the manuscript, Dr. Ficus looked out the window, and I panted.
“You technically met your deadline, but I can’t read this.” She pushed the notebooks back to me. “You have 24 hours to make this legible.” Before I could roll my eyes, Dr. Ficus accepted the challenge and walked out, so I gathered the fragmented manuscript and tagged along. Somehow, we would meet that deadline too.