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Guy at the Library: 11/4/09, Character Sketch

It was the unnatural bluish tint to his dark eyes that first tipped me off. Was it possible that a pupil could naturally exist so black that, upon looking into it, you were suddenly filled with the overwhelming sense that if you were to fall in, you might never return? And could genetics somehow recreate the exact color of an iceberg as it appears from a submarine submerged half a mile below sea level in the Arctic Ocean? The contrast between the icy blue and the blackest black was incredible.

I couldn’t help but stare for a moment, but when he looked up to give his eyes a rest from the glowing screen, he caught me, and I quickly returned my gaze to the notebook in front of me.

I’ve always liked those awkward moments when two sets of strange eyes meet for a moment, across the table, across the room, in line for a roller coaster at the amusement park. There is always that brief moment of understanding: “I don’t know you. I don’t know your name or your job or your history, but right now, we’re connected. You are human, and I understand you.” It’s comforting to know that even when you feel like the people who know you best will never really understand you, even when you feel completely trapped inside your own mind, there will always be moments where complete strangers will know everything you need them to, and for a moment, you’ll be set free.

They say that when you look into someone’s eyes, you can see their soul. I looked into the eyes of this stranger in the library and all I saw the glistening reflection of his computer screen. He stared unblinkingly for an unnaturally long time and began typing methodically. With his furrowed brows and pinched lips, he appeared deep in thought.

For the first time, I had no interest in his soul. Instead, I was overcome with a desperate need to know what he was typing. Was he e-mailing his best friend, abroad in Japan? Doing homework for his 20th Century Literature class? All I could see was the sticker-covered top of his laptop, hiding the secret.

I watched his movements carefully. His fingers moved with the staccato of high heels on the tile floor of a cooperate lobby, pointed and purposeful as they hit each key of his black laptop computer.

Were those small muscle twitches just a little too crisp, too defined?

His eyes began to droop slowly to half-mast. He forced them back open and attempted once more to type, but it was obvious that he was loosing steam. Maybe you won’t believe me, but for a split second, I swear a flash of red in those iceberg eyes. As if it was automatic, he reached into his pocket, pulled out a pair of familiar white ear buds, and placed them securely into the ears and readjusted the mop of hair piled atop his head.

His shoulders immediately relaxed, but his face left hints of remaining panic. What had caused this near-brush with disaster that has him so silently flustered?

For a few seconds, I pretended to to be interested in the leaves and the students walking to class outside of the huge glass pane on my right, but I couldn’t help but look back at him one more time. Once again, our eyes met. Once again, I looked immediately down, and tried to convey with every muscle in my body that I knew nothing. I didn’t suspect him of anything out of the ordinary. He was a boy in the library, typing a paper or checking his e-mail.

Again, his eyebrows furrowed as he returned to his state of deep concentration and his fingers began tap-tap-tapping.

Too distracted to focus at the work in front of me, I turned my head to look around the room, scanning the faces of the hardworking adolescents around. They sat at long wooden tables in hard wooden chairs. I looked at the girl with shiny brown hair and a black fleece jacket reading her open textbook and taking notes in a blue spiral bound notebook, and the boy with the with the red flannel, frustrated and starting down his laptop, as if waiting for his paper to write itself. Everywhere I looked, ear buds connected the to computers connected them to power outlets connected them to the sustenance of electrical life.

Were they all just charging their batteries too?

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Guy at the Library: 11/4/09, Character Sketch by 


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