ASSOCIATES (vol. 7, no. 1, July 2000) - associates.ucr.edu
Katie Buller Kintner
Los Angeles Pierce College
(Warning: the following contains some fairly graphic descriptions.)
It is so easy to get fooled into thinking that life is boring, especially working in a library. One can get lulled into a false sense of security, because in the library world, nothing seems to change. The same staff, the same duties, the same places every day until our senses to the world around us becomes dulled.
Even the people using the library all look the same year in and year out--perpetually youthful, studying with their heads down, whispering to each other, puzzling over computer screens, chatting in small groups, carrying on with their academic lives. No one seems to have a care other than getting through the next test or catching the eye of that cute boy or girl.
No one is expecting anything other than the effort to be productive, yet get through the day and get back home to your loved ones or if nothing else, the TV. They are both quiet struggles that go on every day in the library.
But the day of change arrives without warning. It comes when a young woman stumbles through the door, face and head covered with blood, limbs battered and bruised, blood spilling down the front of her blouse. Her cries of anguish rip through the dusty silence.
Everything stops. Heads absorbed in studying suddenly look up in shock. People standing around become frozen statues; their gazes fixed on the newcomer. Shocked staff members stand staring in disbelief for a moment, then become confused. For a moment, the entire library becomes a tableau.
Then things begin to move very fast.
Someone calls 911. Someone else runs for rolls of paper towel to wad up and put under her head. A student who rose to aid her helps her into a chair. Should she sit? Should she be lying down? A staff member feels faint as the odor of fresh blood fills the air. She runs outside to wait for the ambulance, making her escape from the gash of reality that is invading. Other staffers, hearing the commotion back in the library workroom, come out to see who needs help and are greeted by the horrifying sight. Everyone in the library stands transfixed on the vision, unable to tear his or her eyes away from the nightmare.
The woman keeps crying. Her face is becoming an encrusted mask of blood. There are no features to be made out. She continues crying out, screaming "my baby, my baby!" There is no baby in sight. Where is the baby, we wonder.
Someone runs outside in the direction that she came from but finds no baby anywhere and returns empty handed.
Blood is dripping onto the dirty worn gold and green carpet underneath her chair.
Campus police officers arrive and do nothing to help stem the flow of blood. They stand around asking questions. Moans and garbled words frame the answers.
Are you a student here? No.
Why were you there? I was waiting for my child.
Who did this? A man.
Where? Just outside in the Art quad.
What were you doing? Reading a book while waiting for my child.
What is your child doing there? Taking a summer school class.
Can you describe him? Six feet tall, blond hair, goatee.
Did you know him? No.
What did you say to him? He asked me about art classes and I told him to ask in the Art building. Then a few minutes later he attacked me from behind. He smashed my head into a planter and beat me with his fists.
Did he say anything else? He kept yelling that the devil was making him do it.
Outside, the ambulance finally arrives, no siren, no lights. It moves in slow motion. It's suddenly not an ambulance at all, but fire rescue personnel. The EMTs arrive and are horrified at the sight. No one has told them the seriousness of the situation. They were only told that there was an "assault". We wonder if the word "assault" has another meaning for EMTs that we're not aware of.
Her parents arrive. Mother gasps and cries out as she sees her daughter. Father becomes stoic and business-like as he asks the police officer questions. After all, someone has to keep his head, right?
Scissors are borrowed from the library and discarded after their use. There is no stretcher, only a backboard and the woman must be transported down a steep flight of stairs. Then, heading a cavalcade of tears and questions, she is gone, leaving us wondering who will retrieve the child and tell him that his mother was attacked? As if in answer, father suddenly returns with a police officer, then exits out the same door his daughter entered. The child will be found and taken home.
We all look at each other. Our day has been blasted. There are the remains of bandages and cuttings on the carpet next to the bloodstains. A custodian arrives to clean up the mess and soon there is nothing remaining but the memory that stays with us.
Six feet tall. Blond. Goatee. Just outside the library. The fog has lifted and everything is crystal clear. Oh yes, we are awake now.