Our local news reported a story about a man who was exposing himself around town.  I thought back to a “learning experience” of my own from college. 

I needed a break from the campus library and my dorm room.   I needed to get off campus, get away from distractions.  It was exam time and I had work to do.  I headed to the public library in downtown Columbia, only a few blocks from campus.  I was completely comfortable with this library.  Growing up in Columbia, my mother made sure to take my brother and me on frequent trips there letting us roam on our own.  Only when I became an adult, did I realize that she was probably watching us from just far enough away; enough of a distance to give us the feeling of independence.  I also realized that she would use the reflection of the kitchen windows to watch my brother and me picking at each other while she fooled with dishes.  No wonder she always knew who started it.  What a sneaky woman.

After entering the library with professors’ exam study instructions buzzing in my brain, I began to search for the right spot to hunker down.  One of the great things about this library is the large tables where you can spread your books, papers, multi-colored pens and highlighters.  I must not have been the only student who wanted to get off campus.  All the large tables were occupied.  Where was I going to spill my book bag and my insanity?  I finally found the perfect nook.  Not only was it removed from the main traffic area of the library, it was closed off by a glass door and glass walls.  I had my own room!  With a desk!  And a chair!  Hooray!

I unpacked and got down to it.  My studying habits often included rewriting my class notes.  I think I just memorized places, names and dates by where they were on the page.  I could recall what the page looked like and what pertinent information was contained in certain paragraphs.  I would also associate information with certain highlighter colors.  I had it down to my own finicky science.  I knew what worked for me.  I knew it so well, that I could lose myself in the process. 

I didn’t even notice when a guy sat down in a cube outside of my glass booth.  I was feverishly writing and highlighting and probably talking to myself when I realized there was someone on the other side of the glass.  I did one of those peek to the side moves you automatically do when something or someone catches your attention.  I peeked and continued writing thinking about everything but a penis.  Now, imagine a few beats and then DING.  The oven is preheated, the microwave is done nuking your food, your alarm has penetrated your deep sleep.  THAT’S A PENIS.  Oh. Crap. 

ALERT ALERT ALERT *****PENIS OUT IN PUBLIC******

No way was I going to look to be sure.  I had seen enough and I didn’t need a second look.  I quickly packed up my things and prepared myself to open the door and run.  I also grabbed my keys and channeled Jennifer Lopez in Enough with the weird not-so-much-disguising boyish haircut.  I put the keys in my fist with the biggest key sticking out between my pointer and middle fingers.  I was ready.  I had my back to the glass while packing and needed one bold move to turn around and make it through the door.  One…two….THREE!

Okay.  So, the doors to the glass booths in the public library open inward-just so you know.  Don’t push them.  Fortunately, I made some kind of guttural growly noise at my mistake, which I’m pretty sure was intimidating.  I pulled open the door and scooted past the penis as quickly as possible.  I didn’t stop.  I kept going through the biography section down the escalators and out of the front doors to my car.  In the car.  Locked doors.  PANIC.  Once inside the car I lost my Lopez confidence and drove like a madwoman the few blocks back to campus. 

Sure, I should have stopped before leaving and told the security guard, but I was all about me in the moment and didn’t want to skip a beat to my car.  Sure, I probably should have pulled out my mace canister before escaping the glass box, but I am positive that I would have sprayed myself in the face in an attempt to spray the penis.  Sure, I probably should have found a study buddy to accompany to the library.  That way, both of us could be haunted by the penis.  If only my mother had been watching from around the corner.

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