You’re at the public library in Carolina. You found your new reads: The Common Good by Robert B. Reich, Communion by bell hooks, and The Loneliest Americans by Jay Caspan Kang. As with the other finds, you wander until what you read on the binding moves you. Then you read the first few pages to see if it moves you enough to check out. With all three of these, you feel a win on the reading front of life. You shall see…
You sit and take out your laptop creating an office space on one of the wooden upstairs tables. There’s a man in dreadlocks behind you with the sun streaming in the window on his back; you glance briefly as he squints at his computer and wonder about the glare on his screen. You’ve been there before.
Thirty seconds after sitting, loud communication begins between a baby doll and a forty-something-year-old woman. You can’t help but overhear the woman’s portion of the dialogue. You steal looks in her direction and see her white sweater and striped navy shirt match her dark ankle high jeans and slip-on shoes. She’s color coordinated with a bouffant hairdo. You watch her look lovingly at the baby propped on the overstuffed armchair. She pops a knock-off brand of Cheetos into her mouth, “How did you know I wanted to eat?” She says quickly keeping her eyeson the doll. She tosses in another puff, kicks her crossed leg out to some beat, before hollering “You sit down! Yes, we are. We’re having a nice day together. We’re having our lunch together.” She laughs. She laughs louder, “You need to stop!” Again, she laughs, looks down and stops chewing to gaze intently into the doll’s eyes. The doll has on a yellow beanie wrapped around its dark chocolate head. You can’t see more…
Suddenly, as if out of nowhere, a young man, maybe twenty, is pounding down the aisle with his heavy black boots. You focus on your screen, taking only a milli-second to glance up and determine he is heading right for you. Your blood pressure rises as he gets near, but you are too afraid to move even your eyeballs. Your neck tenses in anticipation of a scream in your face or a slap to the back of your head. You are not rationale, but your body doesn’t know that. He’s almost to your table; you can feel the air shift through your arm hairs. He’s passing! The violent air swooshes the fuzzy keychain on your bag. You hear his cargo pants rubbing violently with every step. Please keep walking. Please don’t hurt me. You find yourself begging as you feign utter focus on your work. He slams a book on a shelf behind you, but close enough you hold the gasp you just took and stop breathing.
“Yep, I should have said nothing! Nothing!” You hear him hiss loudly between clenched teeth.
You wait for the air to settle around you after he passes a second time before you breathe. You watch him walking away and notice for the first time the thick dirty blond hair pulled in a manbun on his head. He’s thinner than he appeared seconds ago. You watch him turn suddenly and pace in front of two backpacks, before throwing one black strap over his shoulder and reaching back to slide his other arm into the second strap. He grabs the turquoise pack with orange hibiscus flowers and heads towards the stairs. A woman meets him at the top with another young woman in a flowery dress, cotton, breezy like her blond curls.
“This is Sampson,” The first woman says.
“Hi, Sampson.” The second woman says extending her arm for a handshake.
Sampson does not reach out to take her hand. He wiggles his fingers in her direction—a wave of sorts.
“Are you afraid to touch me?” The second woman asks.
Sampson says nothing. His fingers twitch twice before stopping entirely.
The woman continues in a coaxing, almost soothing voice: “Be honest. It’s okay if you are afraid to touch me. Fear is how we express ourselves.”
Sampson says nothing, extending the turquoise backpack with the hibiscus flowers towards the first woman. She takes it, shrugging her shoulders towards the second woman like what can you do? before heading with Sampson towards the elevator. The second woman shrugs back before skipping down the stairs.
Meanwhile, the woman in the overstuffed chair increases her volume as the elevator descends: “I’m gonna let you go, baby. I’m leavin’ soon,” she says before making kissing sounds. You look up and see she’s picked a phone out of the baby doll. She takes out her earbuds and puts all three—buds, phone, holder—in her canvas bag, before standing to leave.
Your mind is trying to interpret all you’ve seen and heard and felt. You glance down at your new reads again. You think maybeCommunion is The Common Good and a way, the only way, to combat becoming The Loneliest Americans. Even though your sight is limited and there’s much you haven’t read, you wonder if we are all living the same story.
The public library might be the best place to do your research.