I pop out my headphones to the sound of giggling children.
I glance over, and there they are, three boys sitting cross-legged on the carpet in front of the low bench on which rests their discarded cards. I’m too far away to see what kinds of cards they are or what game the boys are playing but they’ve been at it since I got here 30 minutes ago with no signs of stopping.
They make me smile when one boy tries to pronounce a word that has him bursting into laughter, the two other boys join in with hysterical giggles. Men-juu-cabra? I think that’s the word they’re trying to say, and I have no idea what that is…
Behind them are shelves of books with the sub-headers “religion” and “activity kits” high on the wall. A cardboard cutout of Darth Vader crouches nearby, his saber held tightly in his gloved hands, the red glow glancing off his helmet as he stares malevolently in my direction.
Chill bro, I don’t want your kid either!! Keep your forks!
Music plays from the overhead speakers, something almost country-ish, but low key. Mothers and fathers parade their children down the aisles around me. I try not to stare to closely at the children, some parents get super protective when you even look their way by accident. And I can understand why, children disappear all the time, so I try to remain unassuming and nonthreatening with my blue sweatpants, my black hoodie and dark outer jacket, and my bright hair with blue in the front, burnt orange in the back.
A mom and her daughter walk by, they stare at the books. They are both well dressed, and are apparently looking for something “nonfiction”. Probably for class. They meander out of my sight around the corner in search of appropriate materials.
I wiggle on my seat, which is really a step-stool, and wonder if I should go look for available tables/chairs again. Apparently, this place is popular on Sundays, I’ve never seen so many people sitting around on all tables and even on the floor, typing on their laptops, and reading in deep enrapture.
That’s it, my buns can take no more!
I’m getting up.
I found a chair on the corner of “poetry” and “psychology”.
Perfect! I’ll feel right at home.
The carpet here is green speckled with beige, a compact industrial carpet that sets off the dark chairs and bookshelves with a contrasting flair. To my left are five long tables with approximately six chairs per table and crowded with people sitting in groups. The murmur of voices are soothing in a way that the children’s voices were not. The table closest to me appears to be a study group, they are all flipping through textbooks, thick spiral notebooks at the ready and part puzzlement on their faces.
It sounds like R&B is playing on the speakers now. And there’s the high note, damn! -that male singer can punch it!
In this space, the walls support seven large paintings representing famous books. At the far end “ATLAS SHRUGGED A novel by AYN RAND Author of The Fountainhead” shows a set of train-tracks running towards a dark tunnel. The opening structure is comprised of silver brick smudged to a darker rust color, like the pale lips of a dark cavern set in the side of a green mountain. A bright orange circle, like a sun, looms low above the tunnel, with it’s halo of orange. Green-blue mountains edge a slate blue sky stained with dull peach light, reminding of sunset breaking through the clouds.
To the left, another picture with a oceanic palette. The majority of the painting is a gradient from sandy cream to ocean foam then light blue-green and cerulean. At the bottom huddle six buildings reminiscent of fishermen’s huts, bleached white by the sun and elements for a stark, weathered effect. They crouch on a hill of sand that fades into beach grass, a sage green melding into dark yellow. The top proclaims “HEMINGWAY” in dark blue serif, the sand below has white serif with the words “THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA”.
I skip two paintings, “Of MICE and MEN, a novel by JOHN STEINBECK author of Tortilla Flat” and “Under the Volcano a novel by Malcolm Lowry” to head to the one that is most arresting to me.
The palette is pale sickly yellow and grass green. A man walks, back bowed, sagging shoulders, two large suitcases in each hand. His back is to the viewer, his brimmed hat pulled down low to approach the collar of the worn coat that he wears. The sleeves are too short, the dress shirt cuffs snake down to his wrists. A sickly yellow light shines down in a widening triangle, similar to an interrogation light of a 80’s police station. The harsh extrospection bathes the figure in an unflattering grass green hue with dark green shadows where his back blocks the light to his torso.His weary tread is captured in mid-step, the light seems like a physical weight under which the figure continues to walk. The words “DEATH of a SALESMAN by Arthur Miller” are etched in white sans serif.
Muscular torque, a nude figure caught in a twisted contortion, arms either twisted far behind it’s back or nonexistent, head tilted back harshly with a hint of agony on what can be seen in a thin strip of face that may/not be blindfolded. The thigh and torso muscles are strained, standing out in sharp relief, the mint green palette and dark shadow cast behind it and twisting around the figure’s legs -one wrapped around the ankle and the other lassoed at the juncture of the thigh and trunk- in apparent restraint lend a sense of torture and horror to the otherwise unbound figure. A vivid orange chunk above states “THE SOUND AND THE FURY William Faulkner”.
I moved to another chair, down at the opposite end of the room. Two gentlemen who appeared to be conducting what I assumed to be in-depth research were actually playing some variety of MMORPG that reminds me of Age of Empires. Good times. Hunter/gatherers are running around all over the place.
I smell chocolate brownies, but I’m not hungry. With the numerous coffee cups, I expected to smell that instead, but I’m close to the in-house Starbucks.
Have you guessed where I am yet?
I’m packing up my backpack in preparation of grabbing my bike and riding home. It’s getting late and I’d like to catch a bus uphill instead of walking -last time was murder! I’ll stop at Wegmans real quick.
I head outside into the sunlight, the 40 degree weather feels like summer as I unlock my bike and disconnect it from the bike rack. I glance at the window -“Earn $200 with any purchase of a samsung NOOK”- and shake my head.
I’m a kindle worshiper, sorry.
The sign “Barns and Nobles” seem to stare with reproach as I peddle away into the crisp fall air.