Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Here I sit at my usual table in the New Haven Public Library on Main Street, having completed my usual "Just Say NO to Being Hit On" ritual. I have moved two of the four chairs surrounding my table to another then placed my cumbersome Tinkerbell bag and jacket strategically upon the second. Next, I have plugged in my already fully-charged cell phone, tucking it between said bag and jacket lest some smooth Lothario again corner me with the "do you mind if I move these" line. (The inconvenience of disentangling the cord is a viable excuse for not freeing up this particular chair since the entire Reading Room is quite undeniably empty.) My reference books are spread out about the table, my computer centrally positioned to discourage the bold from squeezing in beside me. And, to top it all off, my best, no-nonsense "no, I am not interested in a 'friend'"demeanor is firmly in place--like well-polished armor--to turn away even the most persistent of the bold. Seems a lot to do simply to work in the library? Yes, I would say so. Still, somehow, this ritual has become a necessary part of my morning research routine. Why, I could not say. After all, I am no raving beauty, In my over-sized t-shirt and leggings, I have not dressed to impress. In truth, it never ceases to take me off-guard when males of varying ages, ethnicity, and socio-economic positions seek me out in the all but empty library in order to sit at my table making very trite, very annoying, very blatant "chit-chat" while I struggle to simply write! I have my "regulars," who pointedly seek me out, making a great production of passing my table, selecting reading materials, or placing their bundles upon my table while loudly or pointedly making their presence known. My popularity has, in fact, become something of a running joke among myself and certain members of the library staff. Before moving to New Haven, I did not realize that daily stalkings were an occupational habit of the serious writer. Naive though I may be, I had no idea that libraries were "notorious pick-up stations." Call me stupid, but I actually thought people came here to, um, read. Still, two minutes into my library routine, a man very casually (too casually, in fact) approached my pointedly isolated table. "'S supposed to rain today?" he asked, as though something in my dress, manner, or demeanor indicated identifiable meteorological abilities. "I'm not sure," I replied off-handedly, careful to be neither rude nor receptive. "You Jamaican?" he asked. The motivation behind the question--as I have no accent, am wearing a Phillips Exeter Academy t-shirt, and have never even been in the general vicinity of that particular island in my entire life--baffled me into making momentary eye-contact. "No," I replied, again erecting my chilly, impregnable walls of distance and resistance. "You're pretty though. My name is Miguel. And yours." Usually, my response to that question is an icy glare, a menacing twisting of the lips, and a distinct, no-nonsense, "My own!" complete with disdainfully arched eye-brow. The Jamaican line having momentarily distracted me, however, I muttered, "Chance." (Not that it matters, as the name is invariably repeated back to me as "Janice," for some completely incomprehensible reason.) "I'll see you around!" he announced with the supreme confidence of one who has made a definite conquest. There was even a bit of a bounce in his step as he exited, never so much as casting a glance at the periodicals offered in this quiet corner section of the building. Thus, here I sit, sighing and shaking my head to clear my mind of its fog of incredulity. One would think I could slip easily and unobtrusively into the background. After all, Tyra Banks, people, I ain't. In fact, I consider myself actually quite plain, leading me to wonder what fascination, what blaring magnetism draws this kind of attention throughout the day every day no matter what steps I take to discourage it. My conclusion: an electromagnetic field surrounds my ancient ibook, sending out periodic signals which subconsciously hone in on desperate or lonely Lotharios, drawing them inexorably to my table. And, as I must invariably utilize this particular tool (as well as the irremovable reference materials necessary for this particular project), such interruptions must be accepted as par for the course. But geezsh!
All I want to do here is write, people. (Hmmm. The twenty-pound dictionary on its fiberglass pedestal! Albeit I usually just cross the room when the need to flip through it arises, it is quite movable. ...And it would take up quite a bit of space at my table as well. Convenience, utility, and versatility! Odd that I never though of it before!)