Tuesday, February 07, 2006


The library will close in twenty-five minutes. Here I sit with a borrowed library laptop; orange spray-painted letters declare it property of IUP LIBRARIES. It's warm in my lap, but not quite warm enough - these ones never overheat the way the boy's does. They're all Dells, half of them older models and half newer Inspiron 1150s, grey and sleek next to their boxy black ancestors. They all sit in the back tech office, charging when they're not in circulation, so it's easy for the tech workers to take them.

The library at 1:30am is ghostly silent, the coffee place closed since 9 and most stragglers already gone. The third floor, cold and empty, smells of mildew and worn pages, and the shelves form comforting nooks and crannies, dividing the silence into patches of quiet air. It's never the same temperature on every floor and in every corner. The second floor is warmer, and busier, sometimes three or four students will linger after the announcement is played: "The library will close in ten minutes. The circulation desk is now closed." They drag themselves away from late-night studying and hurried paper-printing, shuffling toward the doors like they've been pulled away too soon. The first floor is a hive of activity in comparison; it's where all the student workers gather as they shut down the desks and head for the exits. There are smiles and jokes about turning the lights off on the last patrons. Sometimes they do it, just for kicks. Nobody really complains, after the last warning. It's time to go home.

I get to walk back with a co-worker who lives one street away, trading small talk. Up three flights of stairs, to the warm sanctuary of 3rd North, and quietly into the dark room. My roommate is asleep, or pretending, and I am grateful. No more lights or noise tonight. Just the dark and the soft pillow, and the blanket the boy accidentally left this weekend, which I can wrap myself in if I am not asleep the moment I take off my shoes.

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