In the library there is a long room full of rows of white tables that are divided into little compartments for a person to work in. There are partitions to the front and to the side of the compartments but the one to the front only goes about as high as your nose, so up and down the room, all the way along, around and about, you can see people’s eyes. Pairs of eyes looking up, eyes looking down, distant eyes concentrating, frowning eyes pretending to concentrate in front of all the other eyes, and the eyes right in front of you, belonging to the person opposite, which you must never look at at all.
A man comes in who I see everyday. He walks too loud. His shoes are too hard or he just doesn’t know how to walk quietly because his feet hit the floor with such a fat, lazy sound as he strolls past the rows of tables that one day a girl will walk up to him and rip his heart out as he is undoing his scarf to sit down. When he has untied his scarf he folds it over the chair, grabs the chair, pulls it out firmly and sits down.
My eyes fall on a man sitting a few rows down the room. He is looking at a woman who has just turned around to him. He has pale blue eyes which he rolls quietly. The girl turns back around and looks down, smiling. The man then looks at me, and his eyes go colder. I smile, but he doesn’t understand that I saw with my eyes what they were saying with theirs so I look away.
The man with the scarf is clicking on his laptop. He clicks too hard.
Next to me a girl is looking at psychology notes. Her phone vibrates. She texts, puts it down and it immediately vibrates. She works for a few minutes and texts again. I look up how to say mute in the dictionary. The phone vibrates. I am confused, I thought that word meant something else. I remember how to say silent from changing my phone language. She works for a minute and then texts. The phone vibrates. I hesitate, the moment escapes. I wait.
You can tie a scarf in a number of ways. You can drape it round your neck, you can scrunch it into a ball and put it under your coat, or you can lay it flat on the table, halve it exactly, fit it around your throat, lead the ends through the loop and pull firmly. I want to ruffle his hair. If he ever wears a tie, I’ll yank it down and ruin the knot.
Out of nowhere, I sneeze. I think the man sitting opposite me says bless you. I don’t know how to respond. What do I do? Do I sneeze again? How do I sneeze again? Thnku, I say, and stretch out my legs tentatively. I come into contact with his boot and pull them back again and put them under my chair. I try not to look up.