There is a man who comes into the Library once a week. He takes out audio books for his wife, who is going blind. One day, he showed me a photograph of himself in a book he was checking out. It was a war book. History. 940 or 942 if we're talking Dewey Decimal. I forget which. Maybe I'll check tomorrow and edit this. If I get the chance. He told me how he'd met his wife at a dance, and how she had waited for him to return from war. This was over sixty years ago. And they are still in love. And he told me how he'd been part of a small unit that went behind enemy lines, how he was the only one still alive, one of two who'd made it back, and how he'd been awarded medals. And he told me how his wife is slowly losing her sight, and how he brings her these books on tape to help fill her days. She had always loved reading. And now she is too frail to venture out. So he does that for her. He tries to pick books she hasn't already had. A lot of them look the same to him. The stories merge into one.
That was the only time we really spoke in depth. He takes books, says hello, makes smalltalk, but since that day, he's not opened up again. Maybe the Library was exceptionally empty that day, or perhaps he just needed to share his story, show someone his photo, his place in History. It's too easy to see him as just an old man. I wonder how many others are in the books on the shelves. I wonder how often I see the person underneath the creaking bones and the slow movements, wonder how often I'm blind.