I should have been paying more attention when the boy went into the stacks. I told him not to go, but boys disappear sometimes.
I had been refreshing my twitter page looking for some validation. The reference desk phone would ring and I would give the standard answers: "Yes, we're open, our hours are 8 to 8." "The library is located on main street." "Story time is twice every Tuesday at ten and four." I answered with mechanical sureness and put the phone down.
Jesse picked up the stapler and created a pocket from a piece of scratch paper. "Do you think we can live on the moon?"
"Some day," I said and clicked the little circle on the web browser.
"My stepdad says that the moon is dumb. Just a big ball of nothing."
"Is he picking you up today?" The page loaded with no response yet.
"My mom says he can't come back."
"So she's picking you up?"
Jesse took a breath and said, "She said that I should wait and not talk to anybody. Sometimes I like to hide."
"Can I help you find a book?" No answer scared me, but I refreshed the page and watched Jesse from the corner of my eye. He wore a green shirt with long sleeves and a Pokemon logo on the front, jeans despite the heat. He put the stapler down and pulled some tape out and stuck it to his fingers, pulling them apart with a small ripping sound.
"What's in the back in that black door?" Jesse said.
The hairs on the back of my neck rose up. "Nothing," I said.
"Like another room or something?"
"Storage. It's not supposed to be opened for a long time. Why don't you go to children's? I know there's some new Spider-man books in."
His face fell at my brush off. Kids can always tell. He mumbled and walked away from the desk. I continued to refresh the page, but she would not respond. Maybe she never would, my distracted heart told me.
When the man came looking for the boy, I told him to check children's. No kids were allowed in the adult reference by themselves. I had forgotten and when the big man grunted and left, I never looked up.
Closing the library, I found the black door at the end of the stacks ajar. The key hung from the ring, the little yellow tag marked "Storage" hung from the lock. A cold wind swept from the inside and I closed and locked the door before more came. Before the memories came back. I remembered the boy and ran down to the children's department.
I described Jesse and Natalie said she had not seen him. She talked about the big man who had been there, too. She glanced around and said, "Mean guy who looked for all the world like a bastard on a toothpick. What's wrong?"
The storage key dug in my hand. I picked up their extension and dialed for the public address. I said, "Will Jesse come to the circulation desk? Jesse, come to the circulation desk."
I left children's and waited at the circulation desk for an hour. He never came.
I told the director what happened. I told him about the black door being opened. I told him everything, even my own negligence.
"Sometimes the door opens and there's nothing you can do. People do what their hearts tell them, even if it's hiding in dark places," he said.
I sat at the reference desk thinking of the door and the boy and the man. The cold wind let out from the room swept around me, through me. On the desk lay the little pocket Jesse had made with the stapler and the scratch paper. I threw it away and locked the key in the desk. I refreshed the page and still got no response.
Image by Jakob Montrasio