British Public Libraries - Dusty Daytimes for the Job-free

12/03/2014 10:36


I spent Monday there, with the crammed-in people upstairs. Clinging to their seats reading aviation magazines or angling the head forward into computer screens, sucking direct static down their spinal cords  all two dozen cocked over like used drinking straws in a half-height line. One man, out of view, watches The Avengers on YouTube, high volume, versus a balding man whose jowly face plays away at online pool, nodding and transfixed. Before me in this library room are the outfielders  the vague population who sweat placidly through the hum of Monday mornings, keeping it bearable, loop-searching Google for ever-new answers as they keep warm in the old public building. Not easy to work in this environment; there's scrutiny in the air, tainted with an infectious, treacly apathy, oozing in a little. Copies of The Daily Mail are being rustled semi-furiously, among the sporadic students working off laptops full of battery life. 


A different man is seated a small distance away, elbows on his knees, palm over mouth, staring ahead and right through my cheek at nothing in particular, all pensive, wound so tight to become slack, and lost... Perched heavily on his chair there, his barren island... singular asset: one borrowed aviation magazine  uncatalogued, recent. Here a particular smell diffuses around the rooms, the computer fans percolate it  a lurking, sickly aroma of motherboard plastic, compressed armpit hair, and pain medication... the smell of unidentified Monday, of infinite Monday, of vapid, open, caterwauling Monday. Monday's scent walks a long way and waits to go home again, moves to a beat of belts being adjusted by the hour and chaotic assaults of The Avengers, flip-flapping at the hope. 


The same man looks though my cheek again, jaw bubbling like his shoe fell apart mid-walk. Now every one of us stays still while that other man plays internet pool, zooming at tiny solutions in multicolour, keeping warm, not flinching while concentrating. It's needless that anyone breathes a buried word in this mute dialect of outstretched eyeballs. This isn't a library-breath-of-silence, it's one level beneath silence; it's louder, reversing. Nothing moves in the thick of the swarm in the central library, in Bristol's daytime refuge of the job-free – where fifty eyes fret and creak, while everyone diffuses. It's a Monday spent with overlooked faces, spring-loaded among my drinking straw escapists. Casually the routine goes on, and we go home as strangers to be colder.



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British Public Libraries - Dusty Daytimes for the Job-free

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