Tuesday, August 8, 2017
There is an old man who comes to the library every day. He is about to die. This is not a curse. It merely seems apparent.
I don't know what he does all day, but sometime around half an hour before we close he parks in our lot, in handicapped spaces across from the front doors. He uses a multi pronged cane to move. This meager device seems wholly inadequate to his needs. A journey that might take you or I fifteen seconds takes him a full fifteen minutes. As soon as he's in the library he grabs one of our small, ill-advised book shopping carts and uses it as a walker. Once it rolled away from him and he fell on it and bled all over our floor, but then he is often bleeding a bit here or there from his paper thin and marked up skin.
He does not seem well, and this is magnified by the fact that he is in his nineties. His pants are hanging down and much of his adult diaper shows. He is quite crabby, and hard to communicate with, but I am not sure if that is native disposition or he has so little energy to work with that there's nothing left but sheer cussedness. He can't be in the library for more than a handful minutes before he has to begin the process of leaving. He can't hurry, obviously, but he also doesn't seem to want to go. He lingers for as long as possible in the front lobby entry, perusing any number of uninteresting postings we have hung there. It is invariably at least five minutes after we are closed before he finally clears the building.
Though myself and no doubt some of my colleagues look upon this man with a certain amount of alarm, and, liking to leave work in a timely manner, a certain amount of irritation as well, there is a tiny part of me that is awed by his profound, obstinate, and mysterious perseverence out on what appears to be the very borders of his life. His ferocious ability to come to my library on the brink of death is astonishing.
And there is another part of me that is honored by his tenacious desire to spend what appears to be his final, brutal, intrepid, and miserable last days, or weeks, or months of his life enjoying the curious pleasures of our library. Though his interests seem alien to what I value about my library, namely our collection and charming staff, I nevertheless raise my hat to him. "Thank you for the compliment. We are deeply honored." I say. "Now please leave. We are closed."
No hard feelings. Rest in peace.