Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
Many would have described Rick as dusty, which was spot on. The young librarian wore thick, large glasses, had hair of a sandy blond that was just a bit too long and out of style and wore a set of clothes that could have belonged to a senior history teacher. Clearly, appearances weren’t what held his interest. What did, however, were quite unsurprisingly books. Rick woke up to the sounds of audio books, read while brushing his teeth or going to the toilet, had a book during every meal of the day and was repeatedly scolded by his boss for reading books at work. He could hardly be blamed for the last thing, as the library he worked in was so vast that it held over two million of the paper bindings, all neatly ordered in genres and alphabetic sequences. Rick’s main responsibility was making sure that this order was never disturbed, and to correct immediately if it was. He was good at it. The best. Even when distracted by a good story he somehow still managed to spot every single mistake on the countless number of shelves. Books that went missing were most of the time recovered without too much trouble. Books that appeared on the shelves without belonging to the catalogue was something entirely new to him, though.
The day it happened, Rick was pushing his cart into the old Romance section of the library. As he worked his way through the aisles, returning the books belonging to Nk — No, he flawlessly spotted the mistake. As he took it from the shelf for examination, it turned out to be a simple black notebook belonging to the Moleskine range. He was familiar with the brand, even owned one of these little pocket notebooks himself, but how it had turned up in a library was a complete mystery. Finding no marks of ownership on the cover, Rick opened it on the first page and read the tidy handwriting that was present.
In case of loss, please return to:
Great Kingston Library
Romance section — Aisle Nk — No
As a reward: $ (see Rick Nash)
All Rick could do was stare. His first thought was that this was some sort of practical joke from his colleagues, then remembered that every single one of them had the sense of humor of a stone. Still, the person who had planted this notebook in the library knew him. His mind quickly cross-examined the handwriting on this page with that of the handful of people he knew, but nothing matched. For the moment, he would have to accept the mystery. This lit a spark of excitement within him, and he turned to the next page. The same handwriting stood on it, a few sentences that sped up the lazy beat of Rick’s heart.
The rhythmic beat of the drums
Drew her to the bedroom window
She glimpsed his hair, the shade of desert sand
And the drums fell silent once more
Unbelieving, Rick leafed through the rest of the pages, every single one of them an expectant white. Then he returned to the small passage and kept his eyes on the three dots below it. Whoever this mysterious writer was, he or she wanted Rick to continue with the next passage. If, however, the book was actually library property, his job could be at stake should he decide to do so. He stood like that for a few moments, torn between two options, then produced his pen and wrote the next four lines.
He felt someone’s eyes upon him
As he passed underneath the marble gate
And knew that what he had come for
Was not what mattered
He closed the little notebook and carefully placed it back on the shelf, where it blended in perfectly with the other bindings, as if it had always belonged there. The mysterious writer must have known of Rick’s sharp eyes to trust him with such a discovery. He went on with his work for the rest of the day, but as he traveled through the library his mind remained in Romance section, aisle Nk — No.
The following day he came to work early and immediately sought out the notebook, finding it in the exact spot where he had left it. Opening it revealed another passage, and after reading it breathlessly Rick once again added the next one.
Her cheeks blushed
Her green eyes glimmered
She would seek out this man
And knew that it was right
To which he added:
His mind wandered
The sense of destiny strong
He thought that he would soon find out
What it all meant
As he replaced the book once more, Rick realized that what he was doing could be described as flirting. His face turned red at the thought of it and he felt warm for the rest of the day. Flirting was new. And it was exciting. The whole idea that someone might be interested in him romantically was a thought that hadn’t crossed his mind for as long as he could remember.
The correspondence continued uninterrupted for a few weeks, the main characters in the story drawing closer and closer to each other but never meeting. It was due to a thing that, in the story, was called destiny. In real life it was called shyness. Both writers had not yet mustered up the courage to propose the inevitable meeting. Still, Rick had come to work more prepared for it every passing day. He made attempts at dressing a little better, went to the hairdresser and even tried out contact lenses. When he had dropped the fourth set on the bathroom floor he had declared that experiment a failure, though. Still, all these changes had a positive effect on him as a person. He felt more secure and talked a lot more with visitors to the library instead of being immersed in imaginary worlds all the time. It felt refreshing. As his self-confidence grew, so did his desire to meet the woman with the green eyes. It was thus not long before he took the book and wrote down:
He was through with waiting
Would see the woman of his visions
The next day he would go
Where their paths ever intertwined
The next day, as Rick made his way to Romance, aisle Nk — No, time seemed to slow. Anxiety had taken a hold of him, every fibre of his body screaming at him to turn and run. Still, he pushed on, believing it too late to back out. As he came to the last corner he paused and took in a deep breath. As he turned the corner it was taken away. There she stood, clutching the notebook to her chest, looking up at him with what looked like the same anxiety he had felt. Her eyes were a deep green, looking through a pair of glasses that faintly resembled his own. Her hair was a shiny brown, carefully braided into a tail that hung over her shoulder. She wore a simple dress that would have been befitting of another librarian, yet on her it looked beautiful. Recognition dawned in Rick’s eyes. Although he had never seen her from more than the corners of his eyes, he knew she had done an internship at the library. It explained her dusty, yet stunning appearance.
As Rick approached her, she held out the notebook. He took it gently from her hands and read the last passage of their little epic:
Her heart filled up with gladness
As she looked into the depths of his eyes
She lost her self, yet knew
She would rediscover it with him
He looked up to find her arms flung around his neck. The notebook fell to the ground as his own closed around her waist. And so they stood. Smiling. Intimate. Silent. Ready to start the next chapter.