ASSOCIATES (2005, November, v. 12, no. 2) - associates.ucr.edu
The Heart Break Library
University of Exeter
It looked like another long day for Kelly as she walked up the path to the library back entrance. Kelly Bourne was about the brightest thing there was in what was known locally as the ‘Heart Break’ library. Its proper name was the Wellingborough University Library, but only visitors called it that. It was known as the Heart Break library for two reasons: One, the Audio Visual librarian loved Elvis music, and had many arguments with senior management over how loud he played it in the AV department. The other reason was the library was built in the early 1960’s when concrete was all the fashion and the end result was a concrete bunker which staff said was enough to break the heart of anyone entering in it!
Kelly had worked at the Library for twelve years now and was known for her happy disposition and love of bright colours. Today was no exception as she was wearing her brightest colours, multicolour leggings and a bright pink sweatshirt. 'Who cares about colour coordination?' she thought to herself.
Kelly worked on the first floor on the Main Issue desk, dealing with all manner of problems and requests. In fact she was regarded by staff and students alike as being a bit of an ‘angel’. Any sobbing or hysterical student or staff member even, were directed her way to sort out their problems which she often did by making a few phone calls, clearing fines and generally talking to people. Her senior managers could never understand why she bothered but were content in that she solved problems quickly and calmly.
The day started with the usual flood of students being allowed in at 9 a.m. There was as much hustle and general noise as ever, but it was to prove too much for one person. A second year student was standing in the queue when a sudden torrent of abuse and screaming erupted from him. The counter assistant shouted 'Kelly – help', but she was already busy dealing with another person. Despite her best efforts and those around her the student continued to shout about how badly he had been treated by everyone at the University and it was time someone took notice of his complaints. Then there was a flash as a long sharp looking knife reflected the overhead lighting. In an instant everything stopped. The student, now quiet but wide-eyed, said to the girl in front 'come with me' and dragged her to the nearest door. Kelly shouted, 'Don’t do this – let me sort things for you!' but he was gone. Then the silence ended, and was replaced by some screams of fear and anger.
'Lets get him,' someone shouted, and a modern day ‘lynch party’ headed by one of the security guards raced towards the door that had been used moments before. But Kelly was already half way through the door before anyone else could react. The stairs lead both upstairs and downstairs, but which way had the deranged student gone? Kelly stopped and listened, then indicated upwards. Two floors up and there was restricted access to the roof and she could see the door has been forced and there was a trickle of blood by the broken lock. The security officer wanted to go first but some instinct allowed him to let Kelly go first. Quietly but confidently she walked through the door way and out onto the roof. The nameless student stood in the middle of the roof holding the terrified library assistant in front of him. Kelly said, 'Can we talk before anyone does something really silly'? The off beat question caught the student by surprise and he said “ok” without really thinking. So Kelly sat down on part of an air-con unit and said, 'Can you tell me what all this is about, as I am exhausted with all this running up stairs, and who are you'?
It turned out that the student was called Kevin Spacey, and he said, 'Let’s talk as no one is going anywhere.”
'Well, I suggest you let Liz sit down as well before she falls down, or even better let her go downstairs,” was Kelly’s reply. Kevin saw the security people standing behind her and listened as the sound of emergency vehicles sirens could be heard approaching the building. He tensed again unsure what to do, the knife shinning in a menacing way in the sunlight. Kelly seized the opportunity to say, 'Let her go and let me talk to you without that huge knife in your hand.” For one dreadful moment she thought the worst might happen, and he attack her, or the security guards--now joined by police officers--might attempt to tackle him. But instead he ran to the end of the roof, standing on the edge, and shouted 'Leave me alone or I will jump'. Kelly replied, “Let her go, and let me get a bandage for your hand and we can talk.”
'That’s the first time anyone has offered me anything or asked if they can help me,' said a suddenly timid Kevin, with tears running down his face. 'I wanted to talk to you earlier but you would not listen.'
'I’m sorry,' said Kelly, 'but I was busy. Let's go down stairs and talk now'.
'Nobody moves till I say so', snarled Kevin, his wild unpredictable side showing again.
'Ok,' said Kelly, 'what shall we discuss – the weather, books, fines for overdue books?' Kevin looked into her eyes and saw the angel inside and visibly relaxed. 'Yes, why not?' he said. Twenty minutes later Liz was receiving emergency treatment for shock and Kevin’s hand had been bandaged by Kelly.
Kelly said, 'I can not do anything up here, I need to go down and make a few phone calls, and these people will also want to talk to you', indicating the police behind her. But he was still standing on the edge of the roof, and it was a further two hours before he stepped back off the roof edge, having talked constantly about his many problems and fears.
Dropping the knife Kevin walked towards the police and passed Kelly and said, 'Thanks for listening. Perhaps we can talk again some time?'
Kelly replied, 'Sure – let me know when you are coming'.
After he left she leaned on the nearest wall and let out a huge sigh of relief. She was surrounded by worried staff all asking how she felt. She replied 'Like I need a large coffee and some ginger biscuits!' and she thought to herself, 'What was I doing before all this started'?
Copyright 2005 Jim Jackson