Friday, October 14, 2011

I'm turning the world into birds

The last 1.5 hours of my library shift last approximately 5.4 hours (5.9 if Daylight Savings has ended).

10am-7pm is hardly an epic work day, but that dingy hour-and-a-half after everyone else goes home appears to turn my brain into some kind of weary meat soup, and my only intellectual ability is to create more misunderstandings than that time I went to the supermarket and only bought a packet of AA batteries and a carrot.

Typical exchange #1:

Borrower: "Can I borrow these please?"
Me: "Sure." I scan their student card, hand it back and then attempt to check out the dvds. The student card hasn't scanned.
Me, enunciating badly: "Sorry, can I have your card again?"
Borrower, looking down at their cardigan: "Sorry?"

Typical exchange #2:

Borrower: "Sorry, these are a few days overdue. Is there a fine?"
Me: "No, that's fine."
Borrower, frowning: "What's the fine?"
Me: "No, it's fine, no fine."
Borrower: "Can I pay it here?"

etc. I'm tired.

At 6:55pm I wander around the library using my best Mum-voice to break through to the iPod-deaf students in the Science Fiction collection, and the stellar examples of young love that lie entertwined and lust-deaf in the bean bag room.


The iPod kids nod vaguely at me and re-prop their George R. R. Martins back against the door. The young lovers spring apart like I'm their dad and I've just walked in on a particularly practical homework session.

I turn off the music (I've recently discovered that playing the Labyrinth soundtrack just before closing is a good way to get rid of everyone, for some reason), click the bolts across the doors and turn off the lights. There's a muffled shriek and some mad rustling from the other room as someone who has fallen asleep both on and under a bean bag realises they're about to be locked in. They shuffle to the exit and I let them out.

The fluorescent tubes flicker out and I stand alone for a few minutes. Have you ever hung out in a closed library? It's really nice. Warm and dark and booky. Given that I start work again at 8:30am tomorrow, sometimes I consider just making myself a nest of bean bags and sleeping over. Pretend I'm Lynda Day sleeping at the Junior Gazette headquarters. But even without the frizzy perm, it might scare the cleaners to find a bleary-eyed, flannel-pyjamaed librarian where there should really only be empty bean bags and the occasional mouse.

So I wander through the deserted Union House, with its permanent aroma of sushi and feet, across campus to my bus stop. I put on my headphones, partly to listen to music but mostly as a kind of hipster head-band to keep my hair out of my face.

In the peripherest of my peripheral vision, I see two sparrows flitting confidently along the ground towards me. I like a small brown bird as much as the next librarian, but I don’t often, well, hang out with them. I turn my head as slowly as I can so as not to scare them and discover that my new feathered friends are in fact scrunched-up-brown-paper-friends, probably originating from Baker’s Delight, that have blown along the steps towards me.

I’m vaguely disappointed at this dissolution of my prospectively Hitchcockian moment. But only briefly because at that point my bus turns up. One minute early! I wonder why everyone else looks so bloody grumpy about this, but after a few travelers ask the driver “Are you the 6:42?” I realise that this bus is not in fact 1 minute early but 29 minutes late.

The bus skittles towards Clifton Hill and past the tennis courts. I’ve let shuffle choose the tunes and it’s chosen Dolly Parton. While ‘9 to 5’ isn’t entirely accurate for my day, I’m the first to admit that ‘10 to 7’ doesn’t have quite the same je ne sais ménage à trois. (I may have done 1st year uni statistics, but I only did French to year 10.) And at least it's not 'His Eye is on the Sparrow'.

I gaze into the middle distance as we pull up at Clifton Hill station. My gaze scans lazily along the bottom of the tennis court fence.

At the base of it I see a pair of seagulls. They are waltzing.

Their white bodies shuffle back and forth in perfect three-quarter time, like little pale boats cresting the same wave.

I blink, and lean forward in my seat. The feathered flamencos gradually resolve, and I realise the mesh that covers the fence all except the bottom 30cm is obscuring the very human, tennis-playing legs that are connected to the seagulls that are, in fact, a pair white sneakers. As the player dances back and forth, my eyes still catch a bird-like echo in his feet.

So at this point I'm seriously considering either taking up twitching or getting my contact lens prescription checked.

As the bus flings itself up along towards Alphington, I let shuffle take over again and am pleasantly rewarded by a corny rendition of 'Two Hearts Swing in Three-Quarter Time' by Michael Feinstein.

The bus lurches to a halt outside a shop whose signage simply proclaims "TOOLS!" and I try not to take it personally.

I lean my head against the bus window. An enormous raven whizzes right past my head and I instinctively jerk away from the glass in shock.

"Fuck me dead!" I exclaim under my breath. At least, I think it's under my breath but the looks from my fellow passengers suggest it is more 'under my breath while I have headphones on' than 'under my breath when I can hear the volume of my own voice'.

I peer out the window down the road, trying to catch the flight-path of this over-sized cousin of the writing desk.

I can't see any birds, but there is a cyclist waiting up at the red light ahead. His head is at about the height of my bus window, and he's wearing a large, black, aerodynamic helmet. It doesn't look much like a writing desk, but I think I've located my giant Quoth.*

I'm turning the world into birds. What am I going to ornithologically Rorschach next? Does Rorschach** even work as a verb?

My bus purrs on towards Ivanhoe, and the evening light clicks over to that syrupy golden haze that singles out each tree and tells every leaf it's a miracle. As the bus reaches the top of a hill, a large tree rears into view. It's been pruned vigorously to allow the power lines to run through the middle.

Large leafy limbs curve up on either side, straddling the electric tightropes. The evening gilt fades in an instant and the tree arcs in flightless silhouette. I briefly hold my breath at this clipped delusion. The bus drives on.

My iPod shuffles and the first notes of The Leisure Society's 'Love's Enormous Wings' curl around my ears.


* Apologies to Terry Pratchett.

** Autocorrect suggested 'cornstarch' in place of Rorschach. I expect the next gelatinous mass I see will look like a pigeon.


Cath Crowley said...

"At the base of it I see a pair of seagulls. They are waltzing.

Their white bodies shuffle back and forth in perfect three-quarter time, like little pale boats cresting the same wave."

Officially envious of your writing. I was envious before but I was trying not to let the thought take hold.

Anna said...

Oh, thanks Cath - I am most pleased and flattered!