She was calling, she said, from the bowels
of a library on a college campus where
she hid each night and slept among the stacks.
She’d been living that way for years, moving on
when she was discovered to someplace else where
she would blend in with the scenery
and pass undetected among the young.
I heard her out. She’d reached my name after
running through the directory, alphabetically.
Apparently no one in the a’s or b’s or any of the c’s
before me had done so. It was a strange tale she told,
how she’d been cheated of her inheritance—
money her father had left her–by a trustee, distant
and cold, far off in California. She said she had
no money to live on, or even fight with, because of him.
I called the fellow, a reasonable sort.
He thanked me for my concern and the
attention I’d given his ward, but he said she was
off her drugs, the police had been alerted. They knew
she’d come East and were looking for her
but they hadn’t found her yet. There were too
many libraries for her to hide in in this City of Books,
a place such as Borges imagined where for every
rational line there were rows of senseless cacophony,
a library that was the universe, the librarians in suicidal
despair. I rolled over in bed to answer the phone
and heard her voice again, more desperate than before.
They were closing in, couldn’t I help?
She asked. What had the trustee said?
She wouldn’t say where she was—perhaps I’d turn her in.
I don’t recall exactly what I told her other than
to say I couldn’t help her that day; another woman
—the one who would become my wife—
awaited me at the church. She was not the sort who’d
tolerate a groom who’d dare to show up late
to his wedding and hers, and so I demurred.
You’ll have to try the next name on the list
I said. But you’re the only one who’s talked
to me yet, she said, and those words rang in my head
like overtones of plainsong, Gregorian chant echoing
in the chancel up to the apse, as I repeated my vows,
facing the light streaming through a stained-glass window
thinking of her disordered mind, which kept her running
as I prepared to settle down.