She sits across from me at this great big dark wooden table. The library lamp suspended between us is casting a yellow shadow on our work and I have unfortunately had to pull out my laptop, though in this setting I feel like opening a computer is a crime in the muffled silence – even though many of the others are typing away on their own silvery MacBooks. But these walls, built in 1747 weren’t calculated with a computer, and the books that surround me – on the two-tiered walls in this great reading room, makes it seem like this place is a church for writing – that the only thing that I should use in here is a pen, or at worst a printing press.
She’s wearing a gray sweater, and a dark blue scarf wrapped tightly around her neck. The emerald green frames of her glasses are the only real color that jumps out of the darkened landscape of her, and a forest green hat only allows a few wisps of gray hair to escape just above her ears. No jewelry except for a thick black band and a thin silver one on her ring finger. She has two folders with her – one red, one green, a little change purse, and a case for her reading classes. Her tiny English dictionary is most prized today and constantly in use – she holds it open with one finger pressed to the page as she checks her translations on the old documents. I realize that I’m more interested in what she’s doing than my own project. Occasionally her hand movements reveal her inner thoughts – even in the library, it seems Italians are unable to even think without hand movements. I wonder what these news clippings are, as she flips through endless pages of separate texts, occasionally whenever she finds an amusing translation or it seems she’s simply forgotten an easy word, she huffs or mumbles to herself before continuing the repetitive process: page flip, finger brushing on newsprint, page flip, dictionary reference, huff.
I could break the silence across the table, across this monstrosity of a room, but just like taking out my laptop seemed to disturb the mood here, so would speaking – like the vibration of vocal chords would just ruin everything, so I sit across from her with the knowledge of the two languages in my head and we continue to work together in silence. I leave the library before she even puts back the other book.