Thursday, March 31, 2011

One Table Over: Public Library

He's an odd one. He sits alone, as many here do, but he breathes heavily through his mouth as he reads his book.
I've been sitting here for a solid hour, jotting down notes and pretending not to notice him. It's hard. His breathing is noisy and broken, almost like a snore, but he's not napping.
I have to stand and stretch every so often for better circulation, but he has remained hunched over the rectangular wooden table in the matching wooden chair, flipping pages and staring at the book.
He's flipping the pages too quickly to be reading, and I wonder if it might be a picture book or a book of art. I notice he is also flipping them in the wrong direction. Am I wrong to assume that a near thirty year old man knows how to read?
He is non-descript- khaki colored baseball cap, navy blue windbreaker, jeans and athletic shoes. He doesn't appear to be a transient. He is shaven, his clothing fits him and is clean. The only identifying feature about him is his pop-bottle glasses. That, and his heavy mouth-breathing.
He never looks up, never clears that phlegm from his throat, never sniffs, never moves at all aside from flipping pages.
I can't see his book, and suddenly, that is all I want to know. What is he reading? I'm tempted to get up and walk to the restroom just so I'll have an excuse to go past his table and sneak a peek. I have a suspicion that he would sense my spying and move his arm to cover his pages. He is still turning them the wrong way. Right to Left. Too Fast. It is bothering me.
I came here to do a little studying and maybe a little writing on my story, but now this unassuming little man one table over has totally captured my curiosity and most of my attention.
This was a bad plan. I should have stayed home in the silent solitude of my walls. No phones would ring, no librarians would meander, and no ordinary little men with serious breathing issues would be distracting me from writing the next Great American Novel!


Another woman about my age comes and sits at a third table. She unzips her pack, pulls out her laptop, her cellphone, her notebook and pens, and she places them on the table just so. She's done this many times before, and she like things in a particular order. I see that she's got the same kind of laptop as mine, though her background is different and she's decorated it with stickers.
I realize that she has taken notice of the odd man with the breathing problem.
She looks at me with a question in her eyes. Is this guy for real?
I shrug and give her an unspoken answer. I know, weird, huh?
We both shake our heads and go back to our work.
A few minutes later a man with a long hunter green overcoat approaches The Incredible Breather and throws his pack onto the table with a thud. It is loud enough to startle everybody else in the room. Breather didn't even flinch.
They know each other. New Guy has long brown hair a lots of energy. He is snapping his fingers in front of Breather to get his attention. Breather ignores him. This makes me think that they are brothers, or maybe roommates.
"C'mon c'mon. It's time to go," urges New Guy. He grabs Breather's book and turns it over to look at the cover. "What're you reading?"
Breather quickly snatches it back. I can see now that it's a graphic novel, which explains why he was reading so fast, but I still have no clue why he was reading it backward.


  1. hmm, i occasionally read things backwards. i really can't say why. usually just magazines, but sometimes a book. i do it with my mouth closed though.

  2. That was really enjoyable. As a bus rider, I know this guy and so many like him. They're boggling, fascinating, even aggravating.

    I have no idea why that guy was flipping through the book backwards...


  3. Isn't it funny how characters can get in the way of your writing sometimes?! Very nice observations though... and the distractions can offer a lot of material! ;)

  4. If it was done in the traditional Japanese style of graphic novels, they start at the back of the book. Mystery solved. ;) (Thank my nerdy children for me knowing this fact)