sketchbook: Saturday 17 September 2011


I’m on the main floor on a ketchup-colored upholstered bench, a curve that arcs through 120°. The corresponding bench opposite me, which also has an upholstered back, supports an older Iranian man, wispy gray hair trailing across his scalp as he bends over a form he’s completing on the donut-shaped maple table. The table is only shin-height so he has to bend far.

Turns out he’s completing it for a friend, another bald Iranian man, who has just returned and accepted the form with a “thank you” in English, although their other quiet words have been spoken in Farsi. And now they’ve both gone, leaving that bench vacant.

Just for a moment: a woman in dark jeans and dark denim jacket has just plunked onto it heavily to sample a book from the “new arrivals” shelves that curve around us. She is maybe my age. She cocks her head far to the left to rest it on her left hand, elbow propped on the back of the bench. She is blonde, her hair is bundled into a careless ponytail and her face does not appear to be made up. She has stopped flipping languidly through the pages and reads a passage more intently.

It’s still a new building. This floor is an expanse of slate tiles, interrupted by a concrete pillar and a few steel counters that support the catalogue stations. Above us is a dropped ceiling of illuminated acoustic tile; over the main concourse is another dropped ceiling of cedar laths. Exposed HVAC ducts march in straight lines along the ceiling, knowing where they’re bound.

A redhaired librarian reshelves books nearby: black sweater, blue jeans, glasses.

There is a hush: not many people. Querulous voices of little children. The plastic click-clack of DVD boxes being handled and fed into the Returns self-actuating conveyor belt. The whir of the self-opening sliding front door.

Now the book-browsing woman has returned her book to the shelf and makes her way quietly upstairs, looking around her as she goes.

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