He’s sitting outside the door in the same place he always sits. It’s 10 minutes til open. He watches the movement inside as the sun beats down. He rubs the side of his cheek and his jaw adjusts. His blank stare is indifferent at best. The librarian unlocks the door. She knows what’s coming and so does he. She has watched the same movement each week for as long as she can remember. She has said the exact same words to him. He walks up the stairs methodically, straight to Classic Fiction. Browses for about 5-10 minutes. Sits down for an hour. Eventually the time comes when it’s time to check out. He walks up to the desk with the book.
“Sir I’m sorry but you can’t check out books without a library card”.
And each time she feels more numb. More hopeless that something, she doesn’t quite know, is wrong with the system. He seems to process. It’s never been about the book for him. The human component is the routine ask after arriving somewhere. For a moment, he is like everyone else again. He stops. Looks puzzled and she can’t tell if he’s processed what she said. She never can. So she waits patiently. Watches families start to come in. Waves hello or smiles never quite taking her eyes off this man. She’s not afraid. She’s unnerved. Unphased to the extent she can be. He leaves the book on the desk. Turns around toward the door. Begins to walk. His jeans are worn. The faint smell of beer lingers. She doesn’t say anything more as he pushes open the door. What would he even do with the information? Perhaps the next donor will invest in cards that don’t require an address. She tries to reassure herself as she smiles at the next person walking in.
Stina Pagliero is an American product builder and writer who relocated from Brooklyn to live and work in Copenhagen. Currently she oversee the digital product experience at a flavor company called Empirical and teach a course in Product Management for people looking to up-skill or transition careers at General Assembly. This has taken her all over the world—from the US to the Middle East to Europe. Outside Empirical and GA, you can find her: spending time with loved ones, outside in nature, working on her book of short stories, or learning a new skill or in an art museum.
Growing up, Stina read every and any book she could get her hands on in libraries, shops or family homes. She never adapted to the form being taught. She encourages everyone to tell their own stories and keep finding new ways to relate to themselves and the world through reading. To those reading this now, never stop turning the pages.