Fourth floor

The building sat on top of a mini-hill surrounded by high trees that looked green and similar. When I stood on the terrace and looked at the fading sun in the silent evenings, the trees still looked dense and mysterious. A green layer of rustling and silken presence living in undisturbed vitality. The trees belonged to the Eucalyptus species and on the upward slopes on the side of the road a few buildings stood in between. The trees sometimes created a silken, thin layer of dead, gray leaves that enveloped the hard earth. I had seen protruding rocks in between the very few shrubs that existed. Rocks that were black and sturdy, rugged and pointed at the edges hidden behind the woods of trees and concealed under the layer of leaves. Kind of camouflage.

Red laterite sand lay underneath the silken leaves and through which wooden branches of the trees emerged seeking something under the dead layer. I had to be careful while walking through this route instead of the curving road that went parallel to the trees. I had hoped that I would see a reptile somewhere concealed in those leaves or crossing the road: a silvery flash of throbbing, viscous skin wriggling across the road. I had seen lovers adjusting their positions in those bushes; I did not look back as I was not interested and my mission was much important than the momentary rush of blood. My friends said they were drug addicts.

The building to where I was walking to stood on a flat piece of land surrounded by labs and an auditorium shaped like the Sun. The auditorium was interesting because I had not seen any activity in that building. In the night, somebody did switch on the white lights, but it was a mystery why that building stood there without any activity.

I usually walked through the paths created by students, and used to imagine that I was a slowing train on the outer yards of its destination. As I approached the building, which was a library, the vegetation cleared and the place grew more brighter until I entered the building through the front door manned by an aged security guard. There was a small shed outside where people used to park their bicycles and bikes.

It was by accident that I discovered that there was a section in that library that did not interest many. On certain days, I could not find the book I wanted. On another day, there were so many that made selection difficult. The unexplored section stood on the fourth floor and it was much more cleaner than the other sections. The books here remained more or less well stacked and in order, untouched or undisturbed. There were new and old books, but the old ones did have a peculiar smell that indicated that they were still fresh. There was Thomas Mann, Samuel Beckett, Marquez, Soyinka, Kafka, Hrabal, Chekhov, Greene, Maugham, Canetti, and several others, free and undisturbed on those shelves. And I, with just two cards, used to stand looking at them, touching them, opening them, reading a few lines, and stretched to take another one with a couple on my other hand already. At times, I saw a bestseller in between, and I get enraged. I used to throw the bestseller to a vacant part of a shelf as a punishment: my punishment for that book being part of the esteemed group. By dislocation, I meant to teach the librarian a lesson. I was sure that the librarian would one day understand why a particular book deserved not to be on that shelf.

Tired and after spending some time there to make others suspicious, I used to take the road back, down from the fourth floor of that library, instead of the tree-covered slope. From the road, the trees now looked darker and lifeless, while a mysterious scent wafted in from a flower that bloomed late in the night, or something that I had failed to notice earlier. I could not remember whether I walked back slower or faster, but I do remember I walked back alone. Even if I saw someone, I did not speak besides the casual greetings.

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