Hiding in the Library

When I was a kid, I used to putter around this big plot of forest we had at a house we lived in for approximately half a year before things went to shit. I still think about the little forest, and I remembered one thing I liked to do was wander around the trees digging through the fallen branches and thick sponge of moist pine needles. For whatever reason, I was pretty sure the next little hole I dug would reveal a hidden treasure, a very specific, weird treasure that might have been inspired by reading dorky books. I was certain I’d find a sword somewhere in the woods.

I did not.

It takes a child who has both played a lot of video games and completely disassociated with reality to think rifling through a bush will reveal anything like this

Still, even if I never found my little stabbing treasure, I’ve always liked the idea of wonderful things just barely hidden away. I hide requests for pictures of animals in my syllabus, treats from my cat, and a sense that I deserve to exist from myself. Hiding things is fun, and I’ve found myself doing it in many unexpected avenues of my life.

I’ve probably written about my systematic attack on the word “surprise” in every class I teach. Every time I introduce a new project, I start the class by saying there will be a wonderful or whimsical or mysterious or fantastic “surprise.” By the second or third project, they know immediately they’re something new and difficult to work on if they see the word surprise in one of my powerpoints, but I keep using it anyway. I reinforce that knowledge. I take their assumption that the surprise will be a bad thing, and I build that association until it cannot be broken, until just casually mentioning that I’ll bring a surprise on the last day of class garners fear-groans instead of anticipatory gasps. But the unpleasant projects behind the surprise aren’t what I like to hide. What I really enjoy doing is actually following through with something pleasant at the end, of finally invalidating that association of surprise and suffering. Usually, that means the last surprise is cookies.

And they’re mandatory

The funny thing about this blog is that it would largely stay the same if nobody followed it. Even if I was a relic of a distant and savage past, long forgotten by the modern people of the world, left to gather a film of antiquity, I would still be writing the same weird stuff. One thing that certainly wouldn’t change is the quality of the jokes. I feel like there isn’t an intervention or an audience in the world that could make my writing much more than what it is: an endeavor to pack as many pictures of cats and rants about capitalism into a series of vaguely articulate posts about teaching and making bad decisions.

This is me

I largely write for me, but the fact that people like what I write isn’t lost to me, it just means that sometimes I hide a joke in a post that I never expect anyone else to find, and so far nobody has. Hidden things are fun things, even if they aren’t swords I can use to slay evil or defend a small library from an angry mob. Why I used to fantasize about revealing the caliber of my character in the bloody contested archives of a shitty library, I’ll never understand, but I used to think about that almost as much as I thought I’d find a weapon with which to do it by kicking thick patches of grass. I was a weird kid.

I don’t let many people find me, even if I wanted them to, they often can’t. I remember when I started grad school, I was a regular social butterfly flapping around to different bars with different flocks of equally drunk colorful flapworms. However, a little time passed and I stopped spending time with my cohort, stopped leaving the house almost altogether except when I needed to–meaning if I needed groceries, alcohol, or to flee the boundaries of a home I’d contaminated with work. I don’t think I’ll ever be so social inclined again that I will gladly drop my plans of lying on the floor in a burrito of blankets watching cartoons in favor of getting dressed, going outside, and being around a bunch of people who will ask me questions like “what have you been up to lately?” or “how’s it going”or “why do you look like that?” I have caves now, and I love them dearly. I stay home because a night in with my partner is a lot more fun than a night out with anyone else. I bounce between tea shops while never telling anyone where or when I’ll actually be at one of them because tea does not need company to be perfect. And I sequester myself in the library, working with my students and sending them on missions to interact with my colleagues and take the photos and conduct the interviews they need to while I finally get my wish of being a silent, hidden figure in the background that no amount of searching through the forest will find. Someone I work with sent a message to me through one of my students: “Hey, I didn’t know you even worked here. You’re like a ghost.” Fuckin’ right I am. I keep myself tucked away in the old archives of the library, and it is a special joy being so hard to find.

30 Replies to “Hiding in the Library”

  1. Forests and libraries seem to me the two best options for finding any sort of treasure. If my neighborhood used bookstore let me carry in a blanket, I’d likely be lost forever, spend the rest of my days sniffing around and hoarding, hissing at anyone who gets too close.

    As a sidenote: Your comment about no one finding your hidden jokes is really a thinly veiled form of torture. You’re like the literary Unibomber, and I’m on to you.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. (Being nosy) There’s actually a bookstore in the city near my town that offers really wide stairs with mats (think like gym mats, but large enough for a person to lie down on), and every time I go there I have to be dragged out kicking and screaming (not literally, but almost). They also have animal-shaped bean bags for the little ones, and nobody bothers you if you just pick up a book and go read somewhere. I’m pretty sure that’s what heaven looks like.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I’ll be honest, I have often fantasized when I was younger about finding a way to live in a big bookstore or library. And by younger I mean a week or two younger, of course.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Again, you remind me of myself. Back when I used to be involved more heavily in online roleplaying, I once decided to go out with my group and they actually got me on film to prove I exist.
    I’m THAT much of a social non-entity. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That definitely sounds like something I could see happening to me, especially if I got back into online games.

      I worry I’ll one day descend into mythic-levels of my isolation. People with cameras will flock and take blurry photos of me as I walk through the woods, but will anyone believe them that I really do exist? I hope not.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m not going to lie, having people wonder whether or not I really exist is kind of my goal in life. I imagine them sitting there and wondering whether or not my blog is an AI created piece and I’m just pretending to be human. Maybe I should add some weird error messages to some posts. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ugh, I’m so god damned jealous of your library hangout spot!

    I’m a ghost too, especially at work. The office I work in is upstairs and almost everyone else is downstairs. I can easily go an entire eight hours only having brief interactions with my two suite-mates. Ghosting serves not only my introversion and my general dislike of humanity, but my dangerously nosy streak as well. It’s amazing (and sometimes obnoxious) the things one can be privy to when one is so easily forgotten and also in possession of a velociraptor-like sense of hearing.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I feel this on a cosmic level. I’m super nosy, and I love listening in on people from wherever I’m hiding in the library. They never even talk about interesting stuff, but it feels like the best gossip. Who cares that this random freshman has a test in Astronomy? Me. I care a lot.

      Liked by 1 person

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