I emerged from the blankness of my depression when a nearby man of less than average height began his futile attempts to reach a book upon a high shelf. I suppose my intent and wordless gaze fell on him far too long. As he finally looked in my direction, I lowered my eyeline but didn’t turn away, a misguided motion of guilt.
HIM: “Do you mind lending me a hand? I can’t quite reach it.”
ME: “Sure. I can, sure.”
My words carried me up out of the plush chair I’d slunk into and away from the news magazine that heralded all the ill-fated people and places of recent weeks. I went immediately to this stranger’s aid at only his simple request. He pointed me toward the book that troubled his reach as I came forth, arm raised.
HIM: “Thank you, sir. I don’t know why they make these stacks so tall. Shrink them a couple of inches, and I’d have no problem, you know?”
ME: ” I know. They’re probably much taller than they need to be.”
That library in particular was spare in its selection. Most of its shelves held less than half their capacity. Why use the top shelves at all? A man of less than average height likely needed this variety of assistance often. I could scarcely deign not to oblige.
HIM: “Thank you again, sir. I do appreciate it.”
ME: “Absolutely. You are quite welcome.”
He smiled and I returned as much reciprocal emotion as my mood allowed. Then he strode off to some other part of the library where, hopefully, his intentions lay within easier reach. My eyes returned to the voids in the shelves. It flashed into my mind that in movies, tv shows, and other depictions of libraries, books fill the premises almost to their limitations. Reality, of course, demands excess capacity, a place for everything when it is not wandering the world.
ME: What a strange place to be thinking about nothing.
These last words I murmured to myself, still standing, eyes fixed on the heart of the quiet buzz of activity all around me, desire for re-engaging that aforementioned periodical gone. Yes. Strange indeed.
(Note: The title of this piece is a reference to the Samuel Beckett play Waiting for Godot.)