From across the room, under the quiet hush of the library, undiscovered friends await, faces pressed into lit laptop screens. I didn’t realize at the time, but allowing a chance encounter and making new library friends can easily become the highlight of finals season.
Curling across the desktop were three pairs of headphones, all mine. Five books with yellowed pages bent over in a stack, waiting for students to open them. Finals were approaching, and naturally the seats in the library were becoming ever-more desired real estate. Luckily, I had secured a good spot. Settling down, and finally having spread out all the necessary notebooks and additional articles’ pages, I was ready to dive into this philosophy essay.
Upon selecting the appropriate album to accompany my writing, and plugging into one of the three pairs of headphones I had excessively bought, the wisps of a familiar blond head caught my eye. I could just see his face from above the top of my laptop screen. “Basement boy” came to mind. I knew that he lived on the basement floor of my building, but then it struck me: he was in Oceanography with me. He sat in the second to last row. Every day I walked by him to get to my unofficially-assigned assigned seat.
After a good hour of grinding away at my essay, I got up to get some water, walking right by him. His eyes caught mine, and I gave him the we’re-in-oceanography-together smile. But suddenly, he pulled his earphones out from both ears and waved me over.
“Hey, you’re in -”
“Oceanography,” I nodded along and smiled amicably.
Gesturing me over to his open laptop and his open document of notes, he dove into a conversation which began with questions concerning the material. It ended with us laughing so much that the table adjacent to us became devoid of any people because of the noise. We bonded, both of us being from the Midwest, and we smirked about the tropes of people from the East compared to those from the West. The next class, I noted that his absence from his usual spot. Rather, I spotted him comfortably two seats from my unofficially-assigned assigned seat. He smiled, and it came to be that studying moment in the library had begun the beginning of a lasting friendship. Library encounters are frequent, and he has become one of my most consistent study partners.
Two weeks later, knee-deep in finals season, I was drowning beneath the weight of confusing equations. A spread of crumpled graph paper took up much more than my allotted space on the massive communal study table before me. Four hours in and still going strong, my pencil carried on religiously. From the corner of my eye, the screen of my phone lit up. A message from Angela, the editor of the literary magazine club I was a member of on campus. A bit unusual. The message read, “Look up.”
Two tables down, she was waving at me aggressively. She looked hilarious waving, and I felt the resulting smile refreshing after such a marathon of studying. She began to wave me over. Detangling myself from my chargers, I walked over to her. We had a whispered conversation in the surrounding silent library.
After two minutes of this, she gave up and asked if I wanted to get lunch. Realizing my neglected stomach, I jumped at the opportunity.
This was the first time the two of us had ever sat down together and had a drawn out conversation. We became familiar with the other. She gave me advice on some of my English finals as she, too, was an English major. We laughed about professors we both remembered, commenting on the jokes they reused each year yet still seemed to get a kick out of. Just before I left, she called back over her shoulder at me and suggested we do this again sometime.
There’s something about the silence within the stacks of books in a library. In the desperation to glean as much knowledge as possible before the end of term, it shifts the usual guards of people. I found my way into two wonderful friendships during the finals period, and I’m so grateful for it. Even breaks during studying can lead to something amazing.