For the Boy at the Library
by Elizabeth Reynolds
I am seated in a type of makeshift cubicle,First Place WinnerThird Place Winner
a literal hole in the wall
located right between the art books
and every unauthorized biography in the world.
I've been here for an hour,
and I can't concentrate.
Two boys (teenagers, I can tell)
are lingering in the aisle beside me,
one of them leaning against the history of Picasso,
the other one pacing in front of
the greatest works of Stendhal.
They've probably never even taken an art class,
but it doesn't matter that's not why they're here.
This aisle is clearly a therapist's office
on the run for them,
a non-judgmental prayer room;
a not-so-secret meeting place
where they can talk about their feelings
or the latest Knicks game.
(They must whisper while doing so, however,
and they can't eat or drink.
There is also no skateboarding
permitted in this library,
and all patrons must wear shoes.)
"All this crying over a girl,"
says the taller of the two.
"She's not worth all of these tears, okay?
Girls are never worth it.
Well, sometimes they are, but not in this case, bro.
You only went on two dates with her, right?
So then who cares if she wants to date someone else?
Just forget her, man."
He makes it sound so easy
that I simultaneously want to laugh and yell.
(Naturally, I just pretend to keep reading instead.)
The other boy wipes at his eyes,
stares at his sneakers, the laces untied.
"Not worth it," he agrees begrudgingly,
his voice choked; the strains of adolescence still there.
"I shouldn't care so much, right?"
He is so young.
He thinks that if he repeats it enough,
it will magically become true.
Eventually, he'll realize the truth
and he'll probably be driving by then,
cross-country perhaps, from New York to California.
His new girlfriend will be asleep in the seat beside him,
too tired to notice that he's had some random rock song
on repeat for the last three hours.
And he'll look over at her,
his heart brimming over
with how much and how deeply he cares,
and it will dawn on him that it's okay,
that it's actually good.
He hasn't talked to his best friend in a while,
and his Art degree is taking him nowhere fast,
and he's sacrificed almost everything he's ever had
just to make this trip, but it's worth it.
He will be blood and bone and nerve and passion,
with a girlfriend who will smile in her sleep,
and who will love him.
He will be caring and kind and giving.
He will be loved and loved and loved.
He will be just fine.