An elderly woman and I stand in the library’s open door, sheltered by the overhang, watching rain move in, great billows of fine drops rushing across the field.
Summer people visit the library on these steamy afternoons, in a their winding-down, relaxed, vacationing way. We’re different here, one man tells me. I like how we are in Vermont.
Boys with their faces painted a greasy blue-and-black circle around the library and school, hiding in the woods and behind the greenhouse, in an elaborate game. Two best-friend girls stroll in, return books, ask for fish crackers, and request more books. When I leave that afternoon, the girls are still there, lying on the slide’s top platform, staring at the cloud-heavy sky, talking.
All afternoon, bits and pieces of people’s lives knock into mine: a woman applying for a job online, a saleswoman over the phone, a couple who needs a letter written.
Later, when I’m alone again, gathering strewn puppets and closing windows, I realize my phone has a message. Someone dialed my number without realizing it, and I stand in the doorway again, in the sweet post-rain scent, listening to that odd audio window of others’ conversation. A gangly-legged heron flies overhead, then disappears over the trees. I erase that unintended recording and lock up for the day.
When I was nineteen,
I told a thirty-
year-old man what a
fool I had been when
I was seventeen.
‘We were always,’ he
said glancing down, ‘a
fool two years ago.
— Donald Hall