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The sky is a pale grey. I walk alone, except for, of course, the wind coming and going beside me. It drops by to kiss my cheeks, and then disappears again. It walks fast than I.
I am going to the library. I know I could probably be eating lunch right now, but I need to find the book. My stomach objurgates me, but I need to find the book. The soles of my boots drink up the sidewalk in front of me as I near the library.
It is about to snow. My friend the wind tells me it misses the gentle clumps of flakes pirouetting down and around and to the ground. I breathe in the scent of winter, and the cold stings my nose.
I am going to the library. I must find the book.
Usually the voices of excitable college students fade around me as I walk, but today it is too cold. Today, it is too cold to make their lips move or take their hands out of their pockets. So I walk in silence, heading towards the library. My own hands are shoved inside of my leather jacket’s diminutive pockets. My mouth is closed as well. My mouth is always closed.
Out of my nose, my breath comes out as puffs. I walk faster, my thoughts on the book. The library is warm, I tell myself. I need to find the book. If I can find the book, then everything will go back to how it is supposed to be. I will find something wonderful with the book- something too amazing for words. It is in the library. Maybe when I find the book, I can smile again.
I look at my shoes. I sniffle. The book, I think. Its worn pages filled with a thousand words meaning a thousand things, dog-eared at the top and the pages an old white. Two more blocks, and that’s when I can see it. That’s when I can put my cold finger on its spine. The book will warm me.
I feel my hang nails on my thumb inside of my trench coat pockets. I pick at them before curling my fists into a ball because of the cold. The wind now has an inhospitable bite as it continues to drift around me. The last leaves on the trees tremble and dither, and some give up and fall down.
One well-rounded maple leaf tumbles in front of me. I step around it, sniffle again, blink away the water in my eyes that has gathered from the snappy air, keep walking.
I wonder if the leaves are sad when they vamoose off of their branch. Do they miss being colorful and having a home? Do they like being blown around and stepped on? I am wearing cowboy boots, and I don’t think they would appreciate it if I stepped on them.
I shake the thoughts from my head. The tips of my ears- I can feel- are a vivid salmon color. The book.
I can see the back door of the library now. It slowly gets bigger. I know the lady who works at the back desk. She has big red glasses and wrinkles on her hands and always smiles with her eyes. Right as I step toward the handle, it begins to snow. I pause- just for a second- and then I open the door as the campanile strikes three times.
And then it does start to snow. Flakes spiral down and nestle in my silky mahogany locks. They land on my nose and my cheeks and my shoulder. The front door of the library is not two feet away. I pull the door open, and the silence of the library warms me. I hear three strikes of our campus clock as the melted snow from my boots gather onto the thin red carpet.
I know where to go. I smile at the man sitting at the front desk and he smiles back, then I take the north stairs all the way up to the fifth floor. I don’t mind walking, really. The sound of my boots padding against the carpeted stairs comforts me. I think of the book. Beads of sweat gather underneath my knit hat, and I reach up to take it off before opening the door of the fifth floor.
The aisles are as skinny as I am wide. I tilt my head to the side and to my left, searching for the one that has the book somewhere in its shelves. I turn into the exact one.
I am sure that the book is on the fifth floor. Out of all the books in the library, I know where this one is. I know where it is wedged into its place, in between so many others.
The smell of the stairway is different from the main lobby. I hop up the south stairs, taking each step softly, one at a time.
My feet want to move faster, but I control them. I can nearly smell the book. It is so close to the tip of my nose. In the maze of shelves, I turn into the one that holds the book.
I lift a finger and place it on top of the book’s spine. Another finger comes and rests on top of mine. The fingernail is short; smooth, with little vertical lines leading from the bottom. Its touch is warm. I look up.
For a second, I don’t notice her. For a second, I feel her finger under mine, and think it is the most natural thing I have ever done.
And then I look into her eyes. She looks back, with grey irises, the color of the clouds. My breath begins to float upwards. A zing, a zap, a feeling of flying, I tasted the heart in my throat. Neither of us blinks for the longest time.
The man’s eyes are the color of apple cider. I do not move—I can’t—something has prevented me from using my muscles. I look from his left eye to his right eye, his pink cheeks, his lips, then back again.
Finally, I am able to part my lips.
“Do you read e. e. Cummings, too?” she asks me, her voice like baby sips of hot cocoa, the touch of a white rose petal, slipping red velvet hand warmers on someone. I fell in love with her voice.
My finger still rests on hers.
I blink. I ease the book out of its place. While I extend my arms out to hand it to him, I do not take my eyes out of his. The back of my index finger brushes against the cold leather of his jacket.
I want to say something. I want to speak about my favorite poet or how I sit on my couch while I cook dinner with my legs crossed reading it or how beautiful the snow is outside or how the library is the place I come most often when I’m not outside, but the only thing that comes out of my mouth is—
“Here,” she says, whispers it. I reach up, and the touch of her skin tickles mine.
She begins to turn. All of the words I have known and used since I was so young catch on my tongue and crash into the front of my mouth. Come back, I think, but it doesn’t come out. Wait, what is your name? I am frozen, trying to force my voice to say something- anything, just make her come back. I try again, but all I can do is swallow. Silence pierces me, chokes me.
I watch her walk down the aisle and turn the corner, her steps even and light. I look down. The book is still in my hand.