“What do you like?” she asked me.
She had long brown hair. A light complexion that made her light bright skin glow in the sunlight that was peering in through the window. She was wearing a long pink dress with a pair of black knee high boots.
In those days, I was mad out of my mind. High on existence and life. I was also a mess mentally. I was all over the place, lost, left for dead by my own ominous premonitions of the future of my existence. It was a pre-planned self-ransom of my soul.
“Ummmm,” I muttered. I maintained my stare on the large window. I was completely dumbfounded. What do I like, I asked myself? But no answer came through. Only emptiness in my mind.
I turned to look at her as she restocked the bookshelf. I couldn’t help but admire her in motion. She noticed but paid little attention to the matter. She just stared at me when she had a chance. Patiently waiting for a coherent response. This wasn’t the time to fumble over my words. I’ll look like an idiot in front of her.
“Well, I guess I don’t really like anything.” I could feel the stupidity of my response rushing through me. I should just walk away, without any words. It’s too late to redeem myself.
Then she caught me off guard, as if she had planned it all along.
“That’s a shame.” she said. “You have the eyes of a genius.” she smiled at me slyly and walked further down the aisle. She pulled the red cart behind her, picking out books at the right moment. She never lost her rhythm. She pulled each book at the perfect time and never made a mistake.
I stood there for a couple minutes. I looked at her, her delicate skin, her thick lips, her long brown hair. She was bright and thoughtful. I would follow her wherever she wanted me to.
“I’m not a genius. I’m just sifting through the madness of the world,” I said. I walked behind her as she went further down the aisle. As if I hadn’t just quoted Bukowski, no that was all original from my aching soul and my pain stricken poet’s heart.
She responded with silence. I fucked up again, I thought. Who else could come off this pretentious other than myself, I considered?
I followed her for a few steps as she continued to place books on the shelf. It never ended, more books kept coming off her cart. I almost walked away but she didn’t seem to be shunning my presence. She was warm and open to my presence or maybe I was just too far out to be in the moment and to see what was happening.
She bit her bottom lip slightly and let go as she looked up towards me. Slowly, and methodically turning her response over in her head.
“Look, I want to give you something after I’m doing this. Okay?” She turned back to her task. “Just stay by me, I’m almost done.”
“Okay,” I responded and I continued to walk behind her. I could do this all day without any worries. She could waste my time and I don’t think I would mind as long as it was her.
“Why do you say I’m a genius. How do my eyes give any sort of indication to that? Genius is an intellectual matter not something you can base on superficiality or outwards appearance. Now I’m not saying you’re being superficial but how can you be so sure I’m not a complete moron with no sense? It could explain why I’m still standing here, following you around when I hardly know you?” I smiled.
She looked at me, hardly turning her head, putting little effort only turning her brown eyes over to me. A small smile crossed her face, a comedic smile, one of joy, she was happy. I couldn’t tell why. But her joy was contagious despite how stern I kept my face. Regardless of how empty I felt before I walked into the library.
Suddenly, she grabbed a book from the shelf and handed it to me. A book by Ernest Hemingway, it was To Have and Have Not. “What is this?” I asked her.
“I know it’s Hemingway but why? I find Hemingway boring, he’s dull, he puts me to sleep. I don’t think the guy can write,” I said with some amount of half-serious disdain. She stared at me and examined my face for multiple seconds. I thought she looked annoyed with my response. But it was the truth, I couldn’t read Hemingway. No matter how much I tried. He sucked.
“It’s because you don’t understand him.” she told me. “Have you ever read any of his short stories? Maybe you’re not that good of a reader like I thought.”
“I don’t understand him?” I asked her. She could have been right. It actually made sense, maybe I really didn’t understand him. I never thought I read well anyways. I stared at the floor before I looked back up at her, “maybe you’re right maybe I don’t. I haven’t actually — .”
She stared far off behind me, we were standing in the middle of a lonely library with few other souls scattered around ours. She seemed to lose interest in the conversation. It didn’t matter.
“Look at the sunlight coming in through the window, the beams of light look like stella de oros.” She leaned on the bookshelf next to her stared at the beams of light happily. Unbothered by everything and yet she absorbed it all.
Facing her, I leaned on the bookshelf. She looked at me and smirked when we were face to face. As if she had been waiting for me to do it. We looked into each other’s eyes. Her eyes were round and brown and they peered into mine with a strange wonder that mesmerized me. I could stare into her eyes forever and that would solve all of my problems in the world at any moment. All I had to do was look into her eyes.
Then the unfathomable sound of a ringing bell interrupted us. The announcement for the beginning of fourth period spoke above us. Not so saved by the bell, I thought.
“I guess we have to go, don’t we?” she still didn’t look bothered by anything. She looked content with life. “Here, don’t leave without this,” she handed me To Have and Have Not. We started walking towards the backroom near the entrance, where all of the unshelved books went but there weren’t any left.
“What’s your fourth period? We should eat lunch together.” I was devoured by her presence and energy so much that I forgot about myself and my nervousness. I suddenly felt strong and confident around her and like everything would turn out fine in the world. I shed everything that bothered me as I walked with her.
“I have Poetry with Heilemann, are you going to come find me?” she asked me with a playful smile.
“You write poetry?” I asked her.
She laughed happily but didn’t say anything. We walked out of the library together and she quickly squeezed my hand as she hurried away to her class. Far down the hall she turned back to glance at me.
I was holding Hemingway in my hand. I didn’t feel like going to my fourth period so I found an empty bench somewhere near the gym building. Where no one would notice me or bother me about not having a hall pass. I began reading the first Hemingway book that I truly enjoyed. Enjoying the pleasant breeze under a tree, waiting for lunch time. I was getting hungry anyway, lunch could come sooner.