The man came in the library today and said he was looking for a person. Not just any person, but a young lady. He wasn’t old and wasn’t young, just a guy in a brown corduroy jacket and jeans faded around the knees. When he talked about her, he smiled.
“We met in a break room at work,” he said. Continued with a description, light and shadows on her face and a smile. “Not trying to be creepy, I just want to know what happened to her.”
They’d had the summer together, working and laughing and getting to know each other. Putting the time in and not getting romantic but learning and finding enjoyment in the company, the conversation.
He said, “She was the only one that would talk about books with me. When we left we promised we keep in touch. Email and letters. She liked letters.”
I asked him about social media but he shook his head. She didn’t like Facebook, she didn’t do the rest or put pictures up or anything. Not even for jobs. Said she wanted to go about the world face to face, the people all around her the only friends she needed.
Last he heard, she took a job in Alaska. Waiting tables or at the front desk, something at a resort. Something with a little paper trail that can be done anywhere by anyone. So many resorts, so many places to be.
We went to the Internet. Googled her name, where she was from. Found some old pictures that might have been her, silhouettes of sunsets and youthful gatherings, but he said no. He’d found that on his phone.
“Any post marks on the letters? Return addresses?” I said.
A slow shake of the head, sad guilt. “The address I have is old, letters came back ‘return to sender.’ I threw out the envelopes. Kept the papers. All I got to say she existed is a photo by a lake after a hike.”
He has it with him, the lake behind them a cobalt blue under the sky with red and yellow trees around them. He stands, hands out to hold the camera, grinning. A blond ponytail is behind him, face away, just the hint of a jaw line. My patron looks happy; the woman in the photo looks away.
The limited librarian detective work I can do provides little results. We only find old addresses, empty leads. The girl of his quiet summer has vanished into memory. The melancholy in his voice as he thanks me is prevalent yet hopeful. He still has his memories, his ideal of her, and hope that someday they shall meet again.
I watch him walk out the building and get into his car, stickers on the bumper of national parks and hiking brands and wonder if this traveler might not just find her one day. The best thing we can do at times is hope and wonder and wander this earth, looking for good conversation.