Not a particularly stressful day, although my calendar’s full with to-dos; systematically highlighting purple stripes across my planner as more and more things are accomplished. Not a stressful day, per se, but the end of the semester feel has descended like a thundercloud over campus and it feels… different.
We’re not looking forward to a break in the semester, counting down to days enjoying turkey with the family all around; that already happened and now there’s nothing between us and Christmas break. Four weeks of papers, projects, and assignments stretch between us and break. And on a bad day, that seems like a rather long time.
But it wasn’t a bad day.
Checklist goes on and one thing follows on the heels of another task, and the week always starts off like this. I’ve never been to the Chicago public library, but I need to go- grab book bag, grab U-Pass, grab notebook, and the train platform’s close by.
I don’t check my phone and I’m secretly proud, I like the adventure of going and not sure where. It’s nice to have a map, always a blue dot right where I am, right when I need to know, but it’s also fun not to know, and it’s a little excitement on this Monday afternoon.
The train’s easy enough because the library has its own stop, and I’m not halfway down the platform steps when the green signs catch my eye. Chicago Public Library, the big library, is right around; there are signs for it everywhere. Clink thud down to the bottom of the stairs and there’s a second while I stand, neck craned back, craned up, that I’m suddenly a skyscraper-gazing tourist. But the feeling doesn’t last long because the green signs don’t just tell, they indicate, and bright green announcements are flapping in the wind above my head, and the train has dumped me at the very entrance of the massive library.
There’s a funny comfort, an odd exhilaration in the anonymity of a crowd, in being just me, one of so many, exploring things, sorting out things I’ve never done before. There’s so many, many escalators here, and this library is so very big and I’m suddenly thinking of my aunt, who’s been a librarian almost as long as I’ve been alive.
I’ve a library card now and the desk worker instantly recognizes my address as Moody. Her nod to Moody erases a bit of the anonymity I claimed when I walked into the huge, beautiful building, but I really don’t mind. Just now I’ve swathed myself in no one knows, but with one glance she’s peeled back a layer to ah, Moody Bible, and there’s safety and warmth in identity, too.
Find my books, check my books, it’s a big place with people everywhere, and I’m proud of myself for finding the books I need so quickly, so efficiently. It’s good, too, because there are more books to read back at school and class starts at 6pm and tomorrow’s another day full of check marks and purple highlighter success streaks my life.
The escalators only go one way, as escalators tend to do, and one time Alison and I ran up the down escalator in Marshalls, but this is not the time and it’s three wrong turns before I’m back to the beginning again. The hallway to the exit is tall and smooth and there’s art on the walls, too. I remember how to get out now, I came in this way, but I’m still looking around because I like new and I like this and I don’t want to miss anything.
The door is tall and heavy and I push through to the street. I’m standing in the shadow of the train tracks, and the city’s swirling by on either side. This errand, this adventure, was quicker than I anticipated, and I’ve more time now than I thought. The library is big, so very big, and helpful, too, and a seed of contentment at my success sprouts happy.
And there’s a yellow taxi in front of the door, waiting for costumers, waiting for someone to call. I’ve no need; I’ll take the train, but somewhere far above my head a wreath hangs on the towering building, and the taxi’s dark window reflects the festive bright wreath perfectly, a circle of Christmas light shining waxy back at me from the backseat window of an empty cab.
And the train’s high above and the ride’s through the city, and decorations shine everywhere in the setting sun, and there are books in my bag and books on my desk, and the days click down to now and it all just feels right.