I sat in the corner chair of the library and tried to continue reading. It was three in the afternoon and I should have known better. The high school next door had freed their collection of teenagers for the day and they were swarming nosily through the double doors. With a sigh, I laid the book down in my lap. There would be at least ten minutes of them figuring out where to sit so that they could discuss the day’s rumors or events. Some might even want to find a quieter place to study or complete their homework.
The streams of awkward limbs were oblivious to the rest of the patrons in the building. They even seemed oblivious to common sense when it came to clothes. I could see attempts at trendy fashions on some of the more social ones. Others went the opposite direction. Instead of cute attire, they wore garish colors, monochrome blacks or wild assortments just to try and be different. With their friends garbed in similar ensembles, they all just blended together. Like zebras on the Serengeti Plain they melded into tight herds that left one nearly indistinguishable from the other. Not that they would realize such a thing. They were too absorbed in themselves to consider how they might look to the rest of the world.
It was clear they could see differences between one group and the next however. I watched them separate based on physical appearances.
A clutch of made up girls trying to look years older hovered near the doorway. They seemed more intent on being seen than actually using the facility they were disturbing.
Another clump lumbered into the back where they would be out of sight from the librarians whose gaze was watching, vulture like from the reference desk in the center of the room.
Several bounded towards the rows of vacant computers. I watched the older users who had been working on job searches or more serious matters, glare and sigh. The youthful vigor disturbed the serenity of the quiet clicks and searches as they discussed the next level they wanted to achieve in their electronic worlds.
A pair, dully dressed and quieter, moved off towards the cubicles with backpacks bulging and heads close together in whispered conversation. The laughter and painful sneers thrown at them by the more popular girls by the door seemed to glide off of them like water and oil. The two made their own comments and laughed derisively as they rounded a ladened stack.
Each cluster moved about like satellites around one another. Never mixing but their orbits defined by the presence of the others. The rest of the occupants within the library were simply obstacles to be worked around rather than similar entities to be considered and accommodated.
I hoped briefly that these children, swirling in their own universe would open their eyes sooner rather than later. That they would become aware of the world around them that they impacted by their very presence. If they could see how their choices of where to stand, what to do, where to go, affected the small crowd within this small building, perhaps then they could extend that realization to the world beyond the library’s thin walls. They could see the effect that they could have if they looked out, and not in.
I sighed as the reference librarian swayed out from behind the desk. Her face was set in a grim expression that I had seen too many times. She started off, bun bouncing, towards the clutch at the door. Quieted for a moment, the girls giggled readily as soon as the older woman was sauntering away to deal with the next disturbance. The librarian seemed undeterred by the jokes that were being made at her expense. She shot a look over her shoulder that silenced the girls for a moment and then simply redoubled their amusement once freed from her glare. I could see the older woman’s eyes roll. I doubted this was what she had in mind when she entered the profession.
The rumblings from the corner were her next target, but she detoured to deal with the hovering clusters by the computers. One computer per person was the rule clearly articulated on the sign by each monitor. Not that the adolescents had taken the time to read or recall that prohibition. They scattered quickly, like feathers disturbed by a gust, then fluttered back together once she had moved on.
I couldn’t see what happened behind the rows of shelves, but voices were raised and moments later, she was leading a pair towards the front door. One of the two boys had a nose bleed already and the other hung his head dejectedly when he spotted the security guard lingering out the front windows.
I sighed and hoped they could settle their differences more peaceable somehow. Not just those that were scuffling, but the clutch of arrogance that lingered by the hall and those that were too quiet to raise their voices to express an opinion. The tension between them was palatable even more so as the quiet finally began to settle. Their discussions turned to whispers that seemed more malicious than pleasant. Heads bent more tightly together as fingers pointed and eyes flickered to the faces of the opposition.
And around them the library still danced in its usual manner. Their presence disrupted the quiet environment for a time but things began to settle once more. Sure the librarians kept watchful eyes out, but regardless of what the young people thought, they were not the center of the world here. They were merely a part of a whole, regardless if they had the wisdom to recognize that fact or not.