library stairwell

February 13, 2020
2 min read

Searching for a study space with sight of the clear afternoon sun, Maxwell and I end up in the back stairwell of the library. Tucked between the furthest back study rooms, the stairwell is rarely trafficked, its solid marble steps rising through the square cutout that rises up and down through the building. On the top floor, a window to the left, slightly offset, lets in beams of sunlight that travel to the wall we are sitting against, forming a glowing pattern. When clouds pass over the sun, the light turns to a pale glow, drowned out by the warm-pink artificial light overhead. We sit on the hard marble floor, our backpacks to our sides, me with my laptop on my legs crossed and out straight, Maxwell with a small book of Shakespeare between his tucked legs, quietly and steadily filling it with underlines and annotations.

Sounds echo around the stairwell boomingly but as if from far away, as if it were a massive, cavernous space. Each press of my keyboard returns like the echo of a gunshot. Drum hits in the music we play expand beyond the speakers of my laptop and reverberate through the room as if produced that way to begin with. When we speak, our words travel out, bounce back, overlap and multiply. The air fills up and becomes oversaturated with volume, so we must choose our words carefully and not say too many, fearful that something will overfill and spill.

The echoing and the marble evoke the feeling of being in a massive, stark, empty marble temple or palace; a great dim, colorless hall with columns going down each side.

The glowing rectangle of light, softly wavering and textured by the trees and leaves, have shadows cast on it: straight, regular ones from muttons on the windows, and irregular, moving ones from me and Maxwell. The harsh afternoon light hits my face and nostalgia fills me up. Memories trickle in, wash over me and run by: winter afternoons after school, walking into my snowy backyard after getting off the school bus instead of going inside, drinking up the golden air, the pristine landscape, the crisp, pure cold around me. Finally being alone after a long day at school and with friends in the city, or at least anonymous, I walk home through Morningside Park, on broad Cathedral Parkway with its somehow calm but consistent flow of traffic and people, lined with spread-out businesses, old five-story brownstones, ten-story brick apartment buildings, modern glass and concrete high-rises. When I finally get home, I greet the constantly flowing (but to me familiar, lazy, and comforting) traffic circle weaving a little loop at the corner between my apartment building, the Upper West Side, Harlem, and Central Park.

Originally written on November 3rd, 2019. Edited and posted on February 13, 2020.