There he was on the other side of the stacks, reshelving books. Well-groomed fingers but manly; nails cut up to the quick--no room to harbor bacteria. I'm a bit of neatnik. He had a flop of hair he was constantly pushing out of his eyes. A wool vest and pressed shirt. Soft-soled shoes that refused to sully the silence around us. He had thick black-rimmed glasses--a real book reader, but that's expected of a librarian's assistant. You have to want to read a lot if you work in a library right?
Anyway, we were between 616 and 618 in the dewey decimal system, which is a rather embarrassing place to meet a boy. Luckily I was on the 618 side and he was on the 616 side. Out of curiosity I followed him along on my side and then he looked down and through the space between the shelves and smiled. I jumped back and giggled and that's when I felt it for the first time: lighter.
I went back every day that week, trying to come up with appropriate questions to ask him about books, but since I frequently haunted libraries since I was six and learned how to read, I couldn't think what to ask him. Instead I wandered the various rooms, nonchalantly as I could, until I found him with his cart of books, and then I would hide behind a nearby stand, grab a book, crack it open, and pretend to read.
At closing time I would check out my randomly selected books, and leave angry at myself. My feet dragged, and when I got home I would flop on the bed, my limbs leaden, and toss the books on the growing unread stack. On a Friday, as I was picking up my books from the check-out counter, I felt a hand on my elbow.
"May I walk you out, miss?"
I swirled around--it was him.
"Oh!" I said. I must have blushed. I smiled awkwardly, trying to remember how it was to act like a lady (my grandmother always said 'be a lady, don't just act like one!') "Why, yes." I said as demurely as I could muster.
"I see you have an mechanic's manual for the Alvis Speed 20. Did you know that was the first car that had an all-synchromesh gearbox? Those brits sure knew how to build them back then."
I nodded and smiled.
"You know I didn't think you were the type of gal would be interested in engine grease and asphalt."
"Well, I have to write a paper on, uh," I looked down at the title of the manual, which stated that the Alvis was of a 1932 vintage, "depression-era technological developments in pre-war Britain." Maybe that was overdoing it.
"That's quite specific." He opened the doors for me and we walked out into the setting autumn sunlight. All the multicolored leaves on the trees glowed golden. I had to stretch my toes down to connect with the pavement. I hoped he didn't suddenly think I was growing taller. No that's silly.
"I like to be specific." I wanted my mouth to close and my tongue to be still and just enjoy the moment. But it was not to be. "You know I wouldn't figure a librarian to be such an expert in cars." Was that insulting? What if he was a real gearhead and hated being around books?
"Oh, it's just a hobby," he said, kicking a pebble into the grass. "To be honest, I just wanted to find an excuse to come up and talk to you."
He smiled. He smoldered. I giggled and then instinctively covered my mouth with my hand. We properly introduced ourselves. Then I came clean about the fictitious paper and my whole reason for staking out the library all week. We laughed. We talked about our favorite books and favorite characters and favorite places and times of day to curl up with a book and soak it in, and all the while people whizzed around us in blurs. He grazed my hand with his fingers when he pointed out an interesting book in my stack, and it sent a shiver all the way down to my toes, which were now barely connected to the ground--I'm sure it was just the stack of books anchoring me down.
When the sky was scarlet and threatening to go violet, he asked me out to coffee. I gushed too soon, "Yes!"
"How about now? There's this great place not far from here that's open late. We could get some dinner too, if you have the time of course--now that you're not writing about 1930's British automobiles and their socio-economic-technologic impact on the conditions that led to World War Two," he said. I blushed again. "What do you say?"
"That would be swell."
"Well now, shall I be a proper gentleman and carry your books for you?"
I didn't think. I couldn't think.
"Certainly," I said, trying not to grin like a village idiot.
He took the stack of books and suddenly I found myself floating up. I didn't notice it myself at first; I just looked down at him, with a feeling that was something near being in a room filled with puppies, strawberry ice cream, and nitrous oxide.
He dropped my books and grabbed my foot. I was so light I started pulling him up too. Then I realized he could look up my skirt. Dread. Mortification. I dropped like a stone, falling on top of him, pressing him into the pavement. More mortification. More pressure! His face was turning purple. I couldn't breath. Then I realized I was touching all of him. I lightened. I got to my feet and pulled him up too. He glared at me. My knees and hips and ankles hurt.
"I'm sorry!" I said.
"You're rather strange!" he said, softening. I felt lighter. I felt taller.
"I don't quite know what that was..." I said.
"I do," he said.
"You...do?" I said. I felt like I was in a swimming pool.
"I think I do," he said, smiling. He picked up my books, then held my hand tightly. "I think we'll have to save our first kiss for the indoors."