I emerged from the blankness of my depression as a man of less than average height began a futile attempt to reach a book upon a high shelf. I suppose my intentional, wordless gaze fell upon him for too long. When he did look in my direction, I lowered my eye level but didn’t turn away, a motion that implied guilt. Yet he seemed to miss my onus entirely.
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 to this stranger’s aid at only his simple request. He indicated the object of his frustration and I plucked it for him with ease.
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 perhaps required this variety of assistance often. I felt obligated to provide such aid.
HIM: “Thank you again, sir. I do appreciate it.”
ME: “Absolutely. You’re quite welcome.”
He smiled, and I reciprocated as much pleasantness as my mood allowed. After he was gone, my eyes returned to the voids amongst the shelves. It flashed into my mind that movies, TV shows, and other media depicted libraries with books filling the premises almost to their limitations. Reality, of course, demands excess capacity, an open home for everything wandering to return to.
ME: What a strange place to be thinking about nothing.
These last words I murmured to myself, still on my feet, my eyes fixed on the heart of the quiet buzz of activity all around me, any 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.)