November 28, 2016

As a new/older graduate student, I have recently found myself spending a lot of time at the library of my undergrad university. It is nearby and I am entitled to use it as a paying member of the alumni association, so don’t go reporting me for squatting or anything. This place is the best kept secret in town if you are studying or writing. Today, I arrived at the door before it was even open. Sitting outside on the bench I was soon joined by a young man who appeared to be no older than 18 or 19. He carried a backpack full of notebooks and books on one hip and a very young girl child on the other. It was chilly outside and he wore a black hoody pulled over his head. Realizing that we had another five or ten minutes to wait, he gently placed the child on the bench, then sat next to her making sure that her jacket was zipped all the way up. He placed her fingers inside his own hands and told her he was keeping them warm for her. She giggled and kept her eyes on his backpack. As she struggled to pull her hands out of his to reach for the backpack, he realized what she wanted and laughed at his own stupidity, shaking his head and reassuring her that what she wanted was inside. He reached into his pack and pulled out a little zip lock bag of goldfish crackers and handed them over to her as she squealed and wiggled in delight of her victory. Finally, I asked.

“Is this your little girl?”

“Yes, she’s mine” he replied, matter of factly.

“She’s so cute. How old is she?” He referred to the child.

“She can tell you. Tell the lady how old you are.” No response, maybe because she didn’t know how old she was or maybe because she had a mouth full of goldfish. I looked at the little girl.

“How old are you?” Then more gently, again. “How old are you?”

The little girl tentatively held up two fingers as she looked at her father for approval.

“That’s right. You are two.”

We both heard the lock of the doors being opened up and we stood up. He held the door for me, even though I offered to do so for him, for his hands were full of books, babies, and bags. I thanked him and breezed past him heading for the elevator to my fourth floor secret hiding place. As I rode the elevator I thought about what it must be like to be a very young man, with a very young child and a load of college books in my hands as the end of the semester stalked me. I suspect that at least part of this formula was not in his original plan, and my heart went out to him as I tipped my metaphorical hat. I am glad I noticed him because it makes me ponder how very much determined humans can accomplish when they choose to do so. It made me reflect on how fortunate I am to be back in school at my age, and not have to worry about supporting babies or aging parents or shriveling bank accounts or growing debts. I am glad I noticed him and the child because as a writer it is good for me to notice people and their circumstances, but I am even more glad I noticed him and the child because, as human beings, we should notice each other more. We should pay more attention to the good that each of us is doing and offer a hand to help with the things that are not a part of the original formula. And let’s face it, the original formula repeatedly has to be reformulated as life places in our paths little unexpected detours. I’ll bet those two they come here a lot, because both father and child seems completely comfortable amongst the books and the silence. I hope they come here often, because I want to see Little Miss Two Fingers again at some point. She is a sweetie. Maybe I’ll run into them again. I come here almost every day now, so when I come back here tomorrow, I am going to bring some goldfish crackers, just in case.


One Response to “Goldfish”

  1. definitely food for thought – thanks for sharing 🙂

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