Three-Minute Fiction
7:25 pm
Sat March 31, 2012

The Dewey Decimal Suitor

Originally published on Sat March 31, 2012 1:06 am

She closed the book, placed it on the table, and finally decided to walk through the door.

I sucked in a full exchange of air and my stupefaction began to lift.

Oh, God ... did she respond to my note? She'd been sitting there long enough, but my study-carrel stakeout afforded only intermittent glimpses beyond the long, dark hair that draped over the back of her seat.

As soon as she was safely outside the building, I sauntered past the table and scooped up the book with hands as moist as squid sashimi. Back at my study carrel, I wiped my palms on my jeans and anxiously flipped open the copy of Coastal Climatology that she'd been reading.

There was my awkward calling card, scrawled in the featureless print preferred by secret admirers worldwide: "Hi there. Sorry if this seems weird. I've seen you around the university library quite a bit. I'm curious to know who you are and where you're from."

Nothing. She'd left no reply. Though hidden from public view, I felt the shameful heat of rejection warm my cheeks. It was a dumb idea. She probably thinks I'm some kind of psychopathic stalker.

I flipped the scrap of paper over, almost missing the penciled notation on the bottom: "591.9875, pg. 57." Hmm. That hadn't been there when I'd slipped the note between the pages of the book during her study break. Was she just using it as scratch paper?

Wait ... she had briefly left her study table and gone upstairs after I'd planted the note. I stuffed it in my pocket and vaulted up to the science stacks on the next floor. There it was: 591.9875, Conifers of the Western Cascades. It easily fell open to page 57, where a small piece of manila card stock had been lodged.

"For now, let's say my name is Joanna. I'm from here, actually. Born and raised in Eugene. Who are you?"

My lungs felt like overinflated tires going over a speed bump. Now what do I do? I thought for a moment and carefully penned another note: "My name is Jason. I'm a communication arts major from Sacramento."

Should I say that I'd like to meet her? No. One step at a time. I surveyed the stacks and stuck my note in a copy of Grady's Small Engine Repair and Maintenance. Then I went back to her tree book and wrote the catalog number below the note she'd left me: "621.42, pg. 14."

I suppressed the urge to stop by the library the next morning after breakfast. The hours felt like they were percolating through a clogged drain as I slogged through a full schedule of classes. The afternoon finally gave in at the end of my ethnic studies class, and I dashed to the library.

My pulse jumped when I saw a new catalog number written at the bottom of my note: 158.4 CUR. But ... no page number? I jogged downstairs, found the psychology stack, and soon located my target. My spirit sank even as I read the binding. I knew there would be no note inside when I pulled this one off the shelf: Hopes Dashed: Learning to Cope When You Can't Have What You Want by Dr. Alan Curry, Ph.D.

On my way toward the exit, I couldn't help but notice a cute blonde girl absorbed in a heavy tome in the reference section. What was it she was reading that so captivated her? An unoccupied study carrel beckoned from across the room.

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