Six months and four days ago, I followed him into the library for the first time. He never noticed me. His walk alluded confidence and pride as his shoulders arched up and back. As he made his way to the hold section, I couldn’t help but follow. Something drew me to him. What would he check out? Fiction, mystery, mechanics? Maybe college research books? He appeared in his mid-twenties with a thick part down the middle of his crow black hair.
Soon, I fell into his schedule. He never browsed books, only went to the hold shelf, removed his items, checked them out, and drove off in his blue Nissan. I didn’t need to wait for the library to open, but I wanted to be courteous. Once inside, I’d scan the hold shelf searching his name. If it was missing, I’d leave and come back the next day. If his name appeared on a scrap of paper, rubber-banded to a book, I’d jot down the title. I read every book he requested after he did. At first, the books were from the New York Times bestseller list. Then they grew darker and to less popular titles.
With each new visit, his stride shortened, his shoulders hung lower. Stories about true crime and brutal nonfiction occupied his list. In the last month, self-help books and poetry became his new norm. As I followed in his reading path, I felt his life shift. I knew something was wrong, as it had been with me. Some time ago, the self-help books didn’t work.
On a Saturday morning, I noted he placed another self-help book on hold. With trembling hands, I took a scrap of library paper, a miniature pencil, and wrote a name and number down. I placed it in the book and slid it back on the shelf. As always, he entered the library, went to the holds, and checked out the book. I hoped he would call the number if he needed it. I never did. And today, I’m just as invisible as when I was alive.
*National Suicide Prevention Line (1-800-273-8255)