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The Vicious Cycle

A cooling draft crossed the back of my neck as I flipped carelessly through the pages of my biology textbook. It’s funny how a place so familiar becomes so distant when placed in silence. Being the only sentient creature after hours as books metaphorically topple over me and the walls begin to cave creates a stimulating sensation that one wouldn’t label as, “pleasant.” It feels like any second now books will quite literally fly and I will be suffocated by classic literary works that I previously thought would never create such a feeling of demise. Considering I am employed by the librarian, Penelope, she allows me to lock up after hours after I have finished my studies. However, at this rate I will most likely be able to open the library tomorrow.
The library was the size of a mansion with countless shelves with thousands of books that occupied them. They extended across the walls stretching all the way up to the sky roof containing elaborate stained glass windows that moved with you creating that, “fuzzy” sensation in your stomach.  Tonight, I lived between the little gigantic shelves attempting to decipher a Rosetta Stone of a biology textbook that my teacher so kindly blessed me with. I would say that the author of this monster was incomprehensible but ironically I am the incomprehensible one.
At this point I was feeling theatrical. By this I mean I dramatically created a title wave with my arms and quite literally swooshed my papers onto the floor. Although it was an act of frustration, it was liberating. I was not learning what “buccopharyngeal” meant because it is not essential to my everyday vocabulary. Therefore, feeling sassy, I quietly walked through the maze of books searching for my favorite Nicholas Sparks novel entitled, The Notebook. This novel makes my highly selective favorites list because I, contrary to popular belief, enjoy a happy ending. I made my way to the “N” section and climbed a ladder to the 24th shelf and sifted through the books.
Abruptly, a large thump echoed from the other side of the library. Attempting with every fiber of my being to make words I finally shouted “Who’s there?” because in that moment of terror that is what usually one shouts. Bare in mind the pitch of my voice reached the decibel that select, intelligent dogs could decipher.  A deep voice yells back “Owen” he clears his throat,“Sorry, I thought I was alone” “That makes two of us” I responded, thinking I was comedic. Owen chuckled and responded, “Do you know where the band-aids are? I cut my hand while---uh---turning the pages---A PAPER CUT! That’s it, a paper cut!” I’d be lying if I said that the whole “he might be an ax murderer” story didn’t cross my mind once. But this is the most excitement that has happened all day.
I descended the ladder and grabbed the first-aid kit from behind the front desk. I met Owen between the little gigantic bookshelves. He was tall, slender, with bushy brunette hair and looked to be in his mid-30s. He was dressed from head to toe in camouflage to which I said, “That’s quite a statement you’re making with that ensemble” because again, I’m a comedian. Luckily, he laughed and said,“I am a hunter for a living. I was out hunting in the woods before I wandered in here” I nodded understanding and gave him a band-aid. He asked me why I was in the library and I responded, “Trying to understand the meaning of the word ‘buccopharyngeal’’ He looked at me as if I was illiterate (hm, maybe they’re the incomprehensible ones) and said,“I’m here because it has been a rough couple of weeks. I grew up in these woods and spent everyday here as a kid. When times get rough, I come here and read.” I pondered for a moment and decided to meddle, “If you don’t mind me asking, what’s been happening?” he sighed deeply and said, “Well, I haven’t gotten a deer in a month and that’s how I feed my family. I have a son and a wife who depend on me for everything and I can’t do anything for them. My boss fired me this morning and I just cannot face my wife. I’ve been avoiding home all day. I hate seeing her upset. To add to that, my heat and electricity shut off in my house and I can’t pay the bill. My wife will leave that if I don’t get my act together. She’ll leave me and take my son with her and I will loose everything I have. It’s been a vicious cycle and there’s no escaping it. I’ve racked my brain trying to think of scenarios on how this will end in my favor and it won’t. It’s just not in the cards.” I felt terrible. When you’ve had the rug ripped out from under you that many times it the walls cave in. “Vicious cycle” caused me to calculate. It’s quite like being caught in the eye of a hurricane. When sun finally shines and you get that last shred of hope that the harsh wind and rain will finally end. But once the eye passes, the sun hides, the colors fade, and the worst just begins. For once, I was speechless. I responded, “life’s not out to get you.” He shook,  “I find that hard to believe...but thank you. Anyways, I should head out. Thanks for the band-aid,” he said as he walked out of the library.
As Owen walked out I turned my head and located five copies of The Notebook sitting next to where Owen was standing. I picked one up and flipped the pages to Chapter 12, the last chapter, entitled, Winter for Two but I realized it’s been ripped out. “That’s weird” I thought aloud. Then I sifted through the other four copies and realized they all had Chapter 12 ripped out. Then I picked up The Chronicles of Narnia:The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe and realized the last chapters, chapters 16-17, were ripped out too. I sifted through numerous books to find that the final chapters have been ripped out. The only people who have been in the library for the past few hours has been Owen and I. I refused to believe either of us ripped out the last chapters of these books. Is it bad to admit that I thought a raccoon could be crawling around? Ah, whatever. At this point, I decided to pack up my stuff and walk home before I got rabies.
As I exited the library and started on my way home. I decided to take a shortcut through the woods. Luckily, there were lampposts on the trail so I could see everything in dimmed light.  It’s normal for a girl to fear empty, enclose, safe environments, instead of dark and ambiguous woods. I passed Owen walking with a rifle at hand. He said he was tracking a deer, “Things might be looking up!” he said energized. I smiled, genuinely. It truly breaks me when somebody is that destroyed to the point where they vent to a total stranger. I would know, I am guilty of it myself. We all have those moments. Unfortunately, some are more prolonged than others. I continued walking hearing nothing but crickets chirping and seeing fireflies assist in lighting the trail. It was quite peaceful. All of a sudden I hear a gunshot and a scream. I pivoted slowly shaking like a leaf. I saw Owen on his knees sulking into his hands. Traumatized, I ran like Forrest Gump, not looking back once, all the way home. I really wanted that scream to be out of excitement and that those were tears of joy. I wanted his wife and his son to have a deer and  devour tomorrow night for dinner. But a part of me knew that today, life was out to get Owen.
The next morning the major headline in the newspaper was MAN KILLED IN THE WOODS BY DESPERATE HUNTER. I didn’t want to believe it. Owen accidentally killed a man walking towards the library and I saw all of it. As I was reading the article a quote from him read, “I thought the man was a deer. But I guess I should’ve seen this coming. The vicious cycle continues. Happy endings don’t exist in this world or any world.” “Vicious cycle” echoed in my head for weeks after that. But in that moment, everything became clear. Owen ripped out the last chapters of The Notebook and many other books because he truly believed that happy endings do not exist. Life ripped this poor man to shreds to the point that he lost all hope. To the point that he wasn’t surprised he was going to prison for the rest of his life. I bursted into tears at this moment. I knew everything. Every hardship, every emotion he was feeling, everything that has happened to him and just like that fifteen character word, I will never understand it. I will never understand why life is out to get him.
I walked to the library later that morning. Penelope approached me holding a bucket filled with books all of which the last chapters were missing. She was furious. She ranted on and on pacing back and forth about how she trusted me with the library and how she was foolish for letting me stay and I just nodded. She finally took a breath in between her ranting and pacing and said, “What do you have to say for yourself?” and I took responsibility for the missing pages. I am not allowed back in that library. A part of me felt peace knowing that in this moment, Owen now has one less worry in his vicious cycle. Fully appreciate the color and sunshine while in the eye, because if not, you’ll often find yourself in the dark. I hope Owen remembers that.






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