Iris Eben

Playing cat and mouse in the library

Playing cat and mouse in the library

Playing cat and mouse in the library

Everything about him is thick, not fat. Thick hair. Thick arms. Thick torso. Thick fingers. Thick nose. Thick lips. Slightly hunched over his textbook and laptop, he clicked and clacked away, pausing every so often to peer at his textbook. Neither captured his attention for long.

Miniscule hairs pushed through his skin, casting a gray-green shadow that crept up from under his chin to his temples. His knuckles brushed his infant five o’clock shadow, in synch with his nervous twitches.

His worn, gray Nike balance sneakers were cinched tight with perfect, symmetrical bows, just as if his mother had tied it for him that morning. Only one foot, perched on the faux marble table that separated us, remained still. The other trembled.

I felt awkward — attempting to look at him without him noticing me. I was like the National Geographic photographer who lies in the brush observing wild beasts. Like that photographer, I feared death — a social one. The only thing I had to hide behind was the calve-high table in front of me and my eyelashes.

He wore a slate blue, button-down shirt wrinkled in the back. Not in the front. His collar was askew. His cuffs, rolled up mid forearm Larry King style, revealed the dark brush of his long arm hairs. Wild.

A sharp, almost ripping sound, deafened the silence surrounding us in the library when he turned a page in his textbook. It was a noise that cut through the occasional ding of the elevator, the whirring of the a/c blasting air and the soft chatter of patrons.

His black Macbook, the silver apple glowing, grabbed his attention before he could even move on to the next page. He yawned, then sighed, widening his raspberry lips, instantly animating his face. Although his eyes concentrated with intensity, his body transformed from relaxed to rippling with energy when his foot twitched incessantly.

Deep in thought, he didn’t notice me. Typing away furiously, I captured details in 30 second glances. As humans, we have a primal sense of being watched. Soon he looked up from his screen, a passing glance at me and back to his book again.

My eyes flicked upward as I pretended to mouth words. Cat and mouse. I am the cat — watching every movement, and waiting for something interesting to happen. And when he was still, meowww, my fingers lept toward the keyboard to record as fast as I could before he was aware.  But maybe I’m the mouse. For it was I who avoided his stares, dodging his line of vision at every turn.

 

image by: ballookey 

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