The air felt as if it was not fresh, but rather someone else’s stale exhalations—someone who had studied here, and known people here, and been comfortable here. Here was the library, the massive belly of a campus that I could hardly navigate.
And so we sat down, the cold, dead air chafing against us as we tried to focus on our homework. There is a line in “Ulysses” by Lord Tennyson that refers to Ithaca as a “still hearth”. Well, here we were, on the hearth that was dearly meant to be lit, and it felt as if at any moment, someone was going to come in, light the fire, and send us running–screaming–out.
I walked back into the library yesterday after my first class, expecting the same cadaverous, unwelcome silence. But rather, people sat everywhere; pages turned in comfy chairs, keyboards typed, and laughter echoed out across the floor.
And, as it happens, I’m sitting in the library now. I am no longer the Outsider that I felt I was on the first day, inhaling someone else’s stale breath; I am inhaling and exhaling—not a visitor to, but a member of, the library.