Tuesday, August 26, 2008

An afternoon in the library

1. I walk up to the book and pull it from the shelf. Moved by a strong intuition, I do something that I've never done before: I flip to the index looking for my name. There it is. I flip to page 248 and there I am, being quoted about robots. It seems like a message in a bottle, dropped into the water by a younger self who thought robots were more important than babies.

2. I walk upstairs and on the mezzanine all the chairs are filled by homeless people, each one surrounded by debris dragged in off the streets. One man snores softly to himself, the rest just sit, staring into space. In the past, I've always shrugged when foreigners asked me why there were so many homeless people in America: I don't know, I'd say. Now I think I know the answer: It's our isolation. It's not that they don't have jobs or homes; those are just symptoms. In fact, they are there on the mezzanine because they have no where else to go.

3. Crossing through the part of the library reserved as a study space for teenagers, I see two boys peering at a computer screen. As I get closer, I see they are leering at a photograph of a black woman in a thong and one of them whispers, "Cool." I imagine my son as one of those boys. I want to sit down and talk to them, somehow save them from the labyrinthine coldness of the screens, but instead I walk more quickly away.

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