Trudging past cases of dusty books lining endless shelves, passing rows and rows of students–all lost in their own world– the deafening silence of the library’s second floor lulls even the wariest person into a false sense of safety. Then, turning a corner, when you least expect it–chest tightens, brain stops for a second, and instinct kicks in–the very, very last person you want to see in the entire town of St Andrews sits right there, probably about a foot away. If you don’t get out of there in .5 seconds they will look up, you will make eye contact and this entirely unnecessary encounter will force you and this person to remember why it’s so incredibly awkward and uncomfortable.
In this stale gray and brown maze, dangers lurk behind every cubicle. A menacing lab partner that you left hanging for a project or the enraged girl you saw a few times then patched for someone else burn holes in the back of your head. A guy you never called back after a date or an ex-girlfriend with her new romantic interest look up with wistful eyes, passing judgment as you try desperately to avoid eye contact and pretend not to notice. In the ever too bright florescent light, caged in by book shelves, desks and the passive aggressive glares of fourth year students writing their dissertations, escape seems nearly impossible.
The true peril, however, lies in a much more dangerous game. A game of wits, conviction and stealth in which one side will emerge victorious and the other will cave to the pressure and return home defeated and broken. The dance of pretending not to notice the person you least want to see has sat down near you, or far worse, you have committed the grave error of sitting near your enemy. Even when you think you are tough enough, too hardened by the far more vivid and potent version of this game as played out on the floor of the Union’s main bar, do not be so bold as to purposely sit near this person. The unrelenting and maddening density of a library game of chicken is too great a cost for the small victory of being able to tell yourself you aren’t afraid of seeing your ex’s new hookup giggling at his asinine sense of humor. Eyes flick up and down, heads turn ever so slightly–to gauge distance and positon–this game of pretending to ignore the other person while the insistent awareness of their presence slowly carves away at your mental focus and nerves.
To all the library goers: pick your battles carefully, stay alert and warry, never let them see your fear and just remember…you might be the person someone is terrified of seeing.