October 24, 2018


A woman just sat at my table in the library and started reading one of the dozen or so library books she brought with her. As she read she slowly lowered her head closer and closer to the page until finally, after three or four excruciating minutes, her forehead rested directly on the page, at which point she bolted up and exclaimed to no one, “Oh, wow, I’m sorry.” Then she stood and got a drink at the water fountain. As she walked to the fountain, I noticed she wasn’t wearing any shoes, just white athletic socks.

On her return she started to read Fear of Flying, but then, as before, she gradually fell asleep, this time ending up with her forehand on her hand.

She has a coat with her which is far too warm for the weather.

There’s a story here but I don’t know what it is.

When she arrived, she asked if it was okay if she joined me. Not everyone would do that.

She has dark hair which is up in a bun and she’s wearing a purple bracelet that looks like the sort of bracelet one would wear if one belonged to Livestrong or something like that.

My guess is she’s about twenty-five.

Now she’s slumped over sideways and has her left hand under her shirt, evidently cupping her right breast.

I’ve been trying to decide what if anything I should do. I considered passing her a note that says, “Are you okay? I ask because you keep falling asleep.”

I decided that if I did this, I would also pass her my pen so she could write something back. That way we wouldn’t disturb any nearby patrons.

She has a pink daypack.

It’s possible she’s on drugs.

Another possibility is that she hasn’t slept for days.

Yet another possibility is that she hasn’t slept for days because she’s on drugs.

Now she’s slowly, fitfully, waking again.

My main concern is that someone from the library is going to ask her to leave. The library people do that. And I understand why — they can’t have the library become a place for itinerant people to sleep. But at the same time the woman’s not harming anyone or causing a disturbance. And anyway, it’s not as though she’s sleeping continuously; she just dozes off when she tries to read something.

The breast-cupping business is more problematic. But at least she’s discreet about it. And it’s not as though it’s some kind of autoerotic act. My sense, rather, is that she does it for comfort.

Now she’s scrounging through her daypack for something.

Ah, and now she’s dozing off again.

Another possibility — which I’m dearly hoping is true — is that this is performance art.

I’ve decided not to pass her a note because it may lead to me being obliged to help her.

It’s not that I’m opposed to helping her; it’s just that I don’t want her to become attached to me. This is especially a concern because I’m seeing my therapist at 4:30, which is just a half hour from now, and it’s not as though I can bring her to therapy. So if she’s attached to me, she’ll likely end up standing outside my therapist’s building, in her socks, waiting for me.

Now she’s gone back to being slumped over sideways with her left hand under her shirt, cupping her right breast.

The position she’s in… I don’t think I could hold that position for more than 30 seconds; it requires tremendously strong oblique muscles.

Now and then I glance at the folks at neighboring tables, just to see if anyone is watching her. No one appears to be. Although that doesn’t prove anything. People could be watching her while pretending not to. Certainly that’s what I’ve been doing.

I’ve been thinking of writing her a note in which I ask her when the last time was that she had something to eat.

I’ve also been thinking of taking her with me to Bagel Bob’s. I always go to Bagel Bob’s before therapy because the bagels are served hot out of the oven and cost only fifty-five cents from 4pm on. But again there’s the issue of her socks. Although I doubt the guys at Bagel Bob’s would care about her lack of proper footwear. Also, who’s to say she even likes bagels?

Here, again, I’m concerned about her becoming attached to me. For example, say she doesn’t like bagels. At that point I’m going to have to offer her another food option, or ask her what she likes to eat, and it’s not as though I have time to wander the West Village with her in her socks and, who knows, slumped over sideways and cupping her breast.

God, how I hope this is performance art. Because if it is, it’s the best performance art I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s what I should write to her: “You are a truly gifted performance artist with tremendously strong oblique muscles and I really like your socks.”