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Monday, July 12, 2004

Creep Sweep 


The criminals who designed and built this shoddily constructed branch inexplicably filled it with nooks, crannies and blind corners, a terrible idea for a public facility like this. I dread doing the ‘creep sweep,’ the closing procedure where we patrol the stacks to make sure all the patrons are out of the building, because I’m terrified one of them is going to ambush me and pounce on my back like a chupacabra.

So far this hasn’t happened, but the other night I got quite a scare when a homeless man suddenly materialized from behind one of the shelves right in front of me when I thought the library was empty. I was so startled I almost fell back and fainted, just like the man in Mulholland Drive after the creature pops out from behind the dumpster of the Winkies, a scene for which I will never, ever forgive David Lynch. This homeless man, who is a regular, looks amazingly similar to the monster in Mullholland Drive. Like the thing that lives behind Winkies, his clothing and skin are completely blackened with grime and his long hair has matted itself into greasy dread locks. What I find most horrifying about him is that he has that same sinister lack of facial expression, this beatific blankness about him. I usually see him on my morning walk with the dogs by the bay, picking intently at the weeping sores that cover his filth encrusted body or sorting through the trash for cigarette butts, waiting for my branch to open so he can pay me and the keyboard of one of our catalog computers a visit. For reasons I cannot fathom, he is obsessed with the keyboard - it seems that it has a powerful, totemic attraction, a religious signficance, for him. When the library opens up he’ll shuffle in, grab a volume of the encylopedia and park himself at a table in the back. He’ll behave quietly for while, but the call of the keyboard will be too much, and he’ll move toward it and start tapping on the keys in this ritualistic, compulsive manner. He’ll peck slowly at first, typing gibberish, but then he’ll build momentum until he’s frenziedly, destructively pounding on the keyboard with his filthy hands, all the time maintaining this eerily serene expression even as his level of exertion increases, as if what he is doing is bringing him deep peace. At that point my manager will ask him to leave, which the homeless man will do but slowly, because he is reluctant to be separated from the object of his obsession. He usually won’t return again until the next day, when the entire scenario will repeat itself. Since it wasn’t part of his routine to be in there so late at night, I was more shocked to see him than I would have been ordinarily. I hope he doesn’t do that to me again, because I only have so many of those in me that I can take.

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