Ms Lopez wore her lavender glasses on a chain around her neck. She spoke softly, like a librarian should. It seemed impossible she could ever raise her voice above a whisper. Ms Lopez moved with purpose. Every movement felt considered and thoughtful. Ms Lopez was actually Andrea Marie Lopez, but she preferred to be called ‘Lo’ by the patrons at the library. It’s less formal she’d tell them with a small smile.
It was wonderful to watch Ms Lopez interact with each person who walked through the broken automatic doors of the library. She always used the same polite, yet firm tone.
“Only six library books can be borrowed at once. And you must be a member to borrow. No address or email needed. Just a name and a promise to respect the books”, Ms Lopez would inform a person on arrival.
All the local teenagers and kids loved Ms Lopez. She always had a stash of muesli bars to give them when they came in. The kids often wore the same clothes, which were always dirty. They knew the library was a safe space. It was a space in which one could make their own. She could tell they were starving. The school lunches were never sufficient. They never asked so she would always offer either a chocolate chip or cherry and coconut bar – which one?
“Thank you Lo” they would mumble as they scoffed the muesli bar down.
Ms Lopez liked to show the kids all the different types of books in the library and how each section was organised. The kids would then grab one or two books of their choosing and read them quietly in a corner. They would be swallowed into the world of the story. It was a welcome escape for them.
Three cups of Earl Grey and a chicken mayonnaise sandwich was all Ms Lopez needed to sustain her. After the library closed for the day, she would walk the fourteen blocks to her home. It was simple but bursting with character – must like Ms Lopez herself. A cup of French Earl Grey and the latest Lynda La Plante novel awaited her.
It was the small things, Ms Lopez thought as she sipped from her favourite porcelain mug. It’s the small things that make life bearable.
This short story was loosely inspired by an episode of This American Life. The episode can be found here: http://feed.thisamericanlife.org/talpodcast