I found myself falling out of sleep and into wakefulness. The digital clock glowed menacingly through the dim light of early morning, but my bleary eyes could not make out more than angry red fuzz no matter how hard I squinted. I rolled over and shuffled through last week’s reading--a few books, a tattered art journal, and multiple harassing bills stacked one on top of another-- until my fingers fumbled across my glasses. A second glance at the clock, this time in full focus, revealed the numbers 8:57.
It had been a late night. I was tired and knew I looked like hell, but had approximately three minutes to get to work. I started throwing clothes around hastily while simultaneously searching for my keys. I slipped on some sandals and started rushing out the door, caught myself, and reversed the mad dash until I was in the bathroom clutching my toothbrush and scrubbing my teeth into a feral froth. Then spit, rinse, and the final dash out the door, toothbrush still in hand. I tucked it into the inner pocket of my coat, ready and waiting to combat the next attack of halitosis or stubbornly lodged food particles.
The library was quiet when I arrived fashionably late at 9:03, and I managed to slip unnoticed into my office. It felt like ants were crawling around in my brain, slowly picking up neglected neurons and putting them into their proper firing positions. Waking up was usually not an issue, but I was trying to function on barely three hours of shuteye. The thinking machine was running a bit slow, yes, but I couldn't help shaking the vague memory of a dream. I could see it rising to the surface, but just as it came into vision it would seep away into the depths, just a blue-grey shadow sinking in the darkness. It annoyed me because it seemed important. I wanted to remember it, but it wouldn’t stay lodged in view for more than a few microseconds, just long enough to distract me but not long enough to catch it in my memory net.
There was a knock at the door, three soft taps and then silence.
“Yeah,” I said distractedly. Leave me the fuck alone.
“HEY, MOLLY!” It was Ron, the man who wanted so desperately to take me on a date that he continued to stop by every single morning, disregarding my every attempt to shut him down. “I had to stop by to see your smiling face!” I hate it when he says that. It makes me feel obligated to smile, when what I really want to do is wallow in the misery of having to explain on a daily basis why I am not interested in him.
“Hi, Ron.” I didn’t even look up from the e-mail I was typing. Call it rude if you will, but after two years of being visited by him I had little patience. I blamed it on being especially tired that day.
“You know, you still haven’t called me,” he replied with a wink.
I sighed. Here we go.
“Yes, Ron. I know.” I looked him directly in the eye, folding my hands together in front of me. “We’ve been over this. I refused to take your number, which makes it impossible for me to call you.”
“Yeah, but you could look it up in the phone book! Or I can give it to you now.” He flashed me a notecard, already prepared with his name and number, and stepped forward to put it on my desk.
“Ron, you can keep that. I’m not going to call you because I have a boyfriend. You can’t keep doing this, Ron. I need to get back to work.”
He looked at me with hurt eyes walked away. I felt bad-- always do-- but was too tired to respond more delicately, and too impatient with his persistence to care.
Besides, I told myself, I’m grieving.
Grief is a funny thing. You know on some level that you’ve experienced a loss, and something or someone irreplaceable has disappeared forever. Yet you keep hoping that there must have been a mistake, that they'll just show up on your doorstep one day and everything will return to normal. Except it never happens.
Her name is--was-- Moonbeam. Luna Pisces Moonbeam, to be exact. With a name like that you know she must have deserved every savory syllable of it. Such a pale beauty, lavender veined and slim through the shoulders. When I gratefully came to call her mine, I knew that I had never seen anything as quietly majestic or gracefully swift as her before.
Luna is--was-- freedom. She was movement and life, a vast road through breezy hay fields baking in the sun. She was a placid lake surface washed with dancing raindrops. She was all this, all this and much more. And then she was gone, and I found myself left with only the ghost-memory of her figure haunting me at every turn. What could I do? Alone, desolate, I walked. I had been walking for weeks now, through our favorite neighborhoods, parks and parking lots, up hills, into shops. I walked aimlessly, looking longingly down every street and alley, behind every building, through every window and porch railing, hoping desperately to catch a glimpse of her slender figure hiding just out of view. I couldn’t stop walking, which explained why I was so bone-tired all the time.
I sighed. Luna. Best damn bike I’ve ever had. I was still scowling at my computer screen when the phone rang.
“Ladd here.” I waited for a few seconds in silence, then said, “Hello?” Just as I was pulling the receiver away from my ear to hang up, I heard a voice at the other end of the line. For a second time I mustered up enough energy to say, “Hello?”
“Hello,” said the female voice, followed by more silence. Then, “I have information about Luna.”
My throat tightened. Don’t get emotional, I told myself. I took a deep breath to remove the shake from my voice before responding. “What the hell did you do with her, you thief?! I’m going to track you down and smother your mother with manure, douse your house with hexes, harrass your ass with....”
“Woah, woah, easy!” The voice interrupted, following with a lyrical chuckle. I was breathing furiously hard into the receiver, mouth still ajar mid-sentence. A million thoughts were swirling through my head, words were putting themselves into threats and materializing into complete sentences so quickly that her interruption felt like mentally getting flipped over the handlebars of a bike. “Look, I didn’t steal her, but I may have information as to where she is.”
I paused, embarrassed now. I mustered enough humility to say, “Oh.”
There was a slight pause on the other end, although I’m certain I heard a muffled chuckle. “Hey, my name’s Sy. I saw one of your missing bike posters stapled to a tree in the park and thought I’d give you a call.”
Feeling completely deflated, I said quietly, “Oh. I see.” Fortunately my awkward silence did not dissuade the caller from continuing the conversation.
“Yeah, anyway, I have some information but I’d rather deliver it in person. You see, it’s a bit complicated...”
And before I knew it I was scheduled to meet her for lunch at the very same Indian restaurant from which my bike got stolen. I was incredibly nervous, wondering who this mysterious caller was and what information she had about Luna, but I tried to maintain the well-practiced calm of the infamous Dreaded Librarian. Usually my stints against criminal activities are less personal. It boils down to me obtaining justice on behalf of someone else: defending right and punishing wrongdoings, but always for someone else. I had long forgotten what an emotional occurrence it was to feel personally violated, robbed, threatened and defeated. For the first time in many years, I was having to seek help, and from a complete stranger no less!
I shook my head. Some Dreaded Librarian I’ve turned into. I can’t even find a missing bicycle. It was then that I realized I was totally, undeniably, utterly and completely down in the dumps. I hung my head in depressed shame and started methodically moving towards the restaurant.