Library Denizens

During my middle school years, I spent a lot of time at the library. Mostly, I was there to play on the computers. My best friend Alexa and I would sit there for hours playing Runescape. Truly some of my best times were spent there.

Over the hundreds of hours I must’ve logged sitting there, I encountered a handful of people who I still think of all these years later. Here’s a few of them.

The Rocker

Now, I’ve become a lot more cognizant of other peoples’ neurodiversity since learning about my own, but when I was younger, I was quite the ableist. There was this one lady who would often be at the library, usually at least once a week, and I always hated sitting next to her. She kept to herself, but she would always be rocking back and forth in her chair while humming to herself. Her humming wasn’t very quiet, and to me was always so eerie, and her rocking was quite energetic. She scared me, and I would often hurry to leave when she was sat next to me.

Of course, it hurts my heart to type this now. I wish I could’ve been more understanding of her then, ‘cause I get it now. Lord knows I did things due to my autism that others found weird, annoying, worrying. I just have to take grace in knowing that I’m better now.

The Stranger

There was another, slightly older, lady who was regularly sat at the computers. She was a bit short, and looked something like Rick Moranis. She was definitely a smoker, and definitely autistic, but in a more “socially acceptable” way than the previous person. She had a habit of watching my screen, and asking me about whatever I was doing in the moment. Nothing wrong with that per se, but it certainly made her stand out from the other regulars there. One time while filling out a survey type post on Myspace, she peered over and asked me what I was up to. “Filling out a survey,” I replied. “What do you get for it?” she asked. I found this confusing. “Nothing.” I later realized there were services online where you fill out surveys in exchange for gift cards or stuff. I could count on seeing her at the library at least a couple times a week, but despite this, she was always the platonic ideal of a “stranger” to me.

One day, while walking home in the alleyway that connected my street to the library, I saw her unloading groceries from her car in the parking lot of her apartment. She called me over, and tried to chat with me about something, but seeing as she was a “stranger” to me, I wasn’t too into it. Then she asked me to help her get her groceries inside. Now I may have been weary of making small talk, but I’m too helpful for my own good, so I agree to help her. After all, I see her all the time at the library, how bad could she be? Thankfully for me, nothing was afoot. I brought a few bags to her door for her, and I went on my way. I was just judging a book by her cover this time, and everything was fine.

I still saw her for some years after this. In fact, when I was working at the bakery counter, she would often come in and sit in the chair by the exit door while she waited for something or someone.

The Precocious Child

The most astonishing thing to happen while sitting at those library computers occurred one day while Alexa and I were sharing a computer. This event was so incredible, in fact, that Alexa and I still call each other up some times to say, “Hey, remember that girl in the library?”

So there we are, playing Runescape, and this girl comes up and gets on the computer to our right. Now, at this time, Alexa and I were in 6th grade. This girl must’ve been a year or two younger than us, so, say, 4th grade. Now, we’re sittin’ there, playin’, minding our own business. I can see out of the corner of my eye that the girl is on YouTube, but that’s nothing spectacular, so I don’t pay any further mind to her.

About 15 minutes later, this girl’s presumed mother rushes up, grabs her by the wrist and scolds her while dragging her out of the library. Alexa and I look up from our game, and as this girl’s being dragged away, there’s just porn playing on the screen. Not even, like, “real” porn since it was on YouTube, but more like very detailed medical depictions of sex. Not to belabor the point, but it wasn’t just like diagrams and such, it was full on intercourse.

Anyways, Alexa and I just stand there, jaws agape for a moment, before one of us gingerly leans over and logs her out of the computer.

I still have so many questions. How did the mother know to come over to scold her? Did the girl do this often? Did the mother just happen to be walking by and see her daughter’s screen? The mom would’ve been a good 50ft away at least, so that one doesn’t seem the most plausible. Why did she just drag her right out of the library? Why did the girl choose then and there to get curious???

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