The Pratt Library is a futuristic monolith. Upstairs it is glass and Minority Report-white walls, complete with smiling attendants standing in front of their bright widescreen LCD workstations– manipulating them, one imagines, with hand gestures, voice codes, and tongue clicks. The basement, a more relaxed environment, is separated into glass work-chambers looking out onto a small ivy-covered courtyard with a decidedly post-modern waterfall, its spout a thick obtuse plank.
Cars pull in and out of the courtyard– a Coca-Cola truck, a flatbed, a minivan containing an old grey-haired father: trim, well-dressed– an architect?– and his hoodie and sunglass-bedecked son, slim and looking slightly embarrassed as they unload the car for summer term. What one notices, as if out of nowhere, are the leaves– the ivy hugging the walls of the courtyard, the trees encircling the pool of water– green, full, and pleasant. Another surprise– for one doesn’t notice how long they’ve been gone until one sees them again– the bare legs on the women, bright and caught in sunlight. The world has undertaken a deep and profound thaw.
In my glass cubicle I hunch over a thin single-subject notebook. Sick of certain aspects of myself– sick of the my endless analysis, the rear-view mirrors, the reverse button, the scroll bar– I put pen to paper in an attempt to redevelop my blinders, which snapped off when I ducked to enter the tunnel S.: that of my writing mentor. Though my technique has improved, and so has my language, I have lost the naive ability to “push forward, push forward!” “Lost” is the wrong word. Too dramatic. But the muscle has grown small and flimsy, and it has been replaced by a megalomaniacal paranoia…
After seven pages I have no momentum. I take a walk, crossing over to Queen’s Park for no reason– and crossing back, walk to the Kelly Library. In front of me a young man and woman in dark suits loose their ties, unbutton their coats, and collapse on a park bench. Three cleaning women in bright eggshell blue uniforms escort a slow-moving “St. Michael’s University” truck down a wide avenue of old, elegant homes.
Kelly Library is less impressive than the Pratt, institutional, drab– but, for some reason or another (familiarity) it was once a second home. Since then they’ve renovated the reading room and added a “café”… before, I realise, the room was oppressively silent, even filled during exams– then, especially at night, the tension was thick, musty, and unpleasant. Eating was allowed, but taking a bite of apple– or hearing one– was torture. Now it is not too loud, but sound is constant. No one is tense or ill-at-ease. The dominating mode of the room is no longer passive aggression.
Across the room, a table of philosophy students. A muslim with a lincoln beard (and mustache) argues with a young woman in red lipstick… the crux of the argument doesn’t make it to my table: though I hear the word “integrity” more than once, I can make out nothing else. The discussion is incredibly animated, even attractive. I can’t seem to take my eyes off of either of them. The argument, even if it is only an argument, is something more than that, and something less. They are both smiling. The two aren’t picking each other up, or flirting, and yet something intimate and exciting unfolds itself… something raw and sexual, but also far from sexual.
I once had a friend (“once” only because I don’t know where in the world he is now, and it’s been over a year since we’ve last talked) who, in the midst of a productive summer, told me that to sleep with someone is to “know” them– which, to a certain extent, is true. Not that to do so you can instantly know someone completely, and fully– but the desire, I think, that lizard-brain urge that enters the mind of someone when he looks on an attractive stranger– that desire is to “know” them. That’s all. Everything else is secondary. In that sense, I think, the argument– the passionate one– is the more effective way of accomplishing this… more effective because sexuality, that diverse mess, need not have anything to do with it.
Somewhere in the midst of the argument I look down at my notebook. I’ve written another three pages, and future pages find shape. Momentum regained, I pack up, and leave the Kelly Library. I will come again tomorrow.