Hello, I’m Karl, I just arrived here. I was wondering if you would be interested in hearing out a little story. I just want to clarify a quick thing from the start. The “you” in this story is me, it’s you, it’s an all-encompassing second person. So, everything I say to you is something I have witnessed myself, and the stories I share are stories that you’ve heard too.
It’s Tuesday, you get on the train and you observe, almost instantly, an uncanny sense of emptiness. It’s not that the train is devoid of passengers, but the atmosphere tells you that you are somewhere others are avoiding. You do not seem to forget that these are trying times and that the emptiness of the train is not a leisurely reality, but one of the most flagrant losses of the 21st Century. Obviously, your breath escapes the mask and fogs your viewfinder so you wipe it repeatedly and frame the shot again.
You look out the window and you realize that you do not wish to be a naïve or delusional optimist. But, you cannot escape the feeling that there is something unbelievably intimate about looking out the window and daydreaming. You notice that when the doors open between stops nothing, nobody, enters the car but a faint gust of wind. Space has given you its enveloping arms and you are comfortable sitting there, motionless.
You think to yourself: “I’m a writer.” But that thought is not very enjoyable. Actually, it makes you feel a little arrogant and somewhat pedantic. You abandon it quickly but you save a kernel from its origin. In your case, you admit that writing is best conducted alone, without interruption, and you remember with a smile that Joyce Carol Oates agrees with you. Your stop is finally here and you exit the train and see people walking, masks on their faces, and they all seem so far away from you. Everything is so spaced out now, it’s almost as if the city is breathing longer breaths, meditating on whether to slow down or keep its pace.
You walk to the Library because you have an appointment to make. 1:00PM-4:00PM. The space in the library is now only available through reservations and you are surprised to see how one extra step in the process is more than enough to dissuade the majority of students. With the added necessity of staying home and avoiding contact you realize that the library is also inhabited by open rhythms and books.
It’s not that you are happy to see the empty library. You are always confronted with the truth of the matter and you can never forget that you are wearing a mask even though the room is wide open. The silence is haunting. Only a few sounds pierce through its magnificence: your breath under the mask, the sound of the air conditioner, and the “click-clack” of the keyboard you are using to type this very essay.