The Librarian's Soup

by Sal Katz '23

          The librarian entered her house late at night after holding the late shift at the library. She had to wait for the businessmen and the students to finish up their work before she could finish her work as well. When she turned on the light, the dainty kitchen was illuminated, and she entered the space. She decided to make herself some soup, so she grabbed a can of Campbell’s and turned the stove on. The librarian trudged from one end of the small area to the other, picking up pots and spoons. She was a quiet woman, never one to laugh or cry. An impassive bookworm, she was once called by her colleague. When the soup was finished, she brought the pot off the stove and poured herself a bowl of the soup.

          Holding the warm bowl, she paced around the darkness of her modest bungalow. The noise that once echoed through the house remained trapped in the walls. Memories of children and her husband lingered in the windowpanes. She walked towards her personal library and turned on the light. One entire lengthwise wall of the room was covered with bookshelves, from floor to ceiling. The first book that caught her eye was a photo album. She was taken aback simply because that had never been the first book she would recognize. Perplexed, she set her soup down, gently pulled out the photo album, and sat in the armchair of the study, flipping through the book. Memories of birthdays, funerals, vacations, and weddings began flooding back to her.

          She first thought of Molly. The kind girl who listened. The one who never lied. The one who outperformed every student in her class. The one who ran the fastest at all of her cross country meets. But also, she was the first one to abandon her mother. It happened after Molly graduated from college. Molly had just returned to the bungalow and, in the library, announced that she was to marry her boyfriend of three years. Of course, the librarian was surprised, but above all, she was enraged. The man had cheated on Molly, yet, still, Molly wanted to marry him. The mother asked her daughter why. Molly snapped back at the librarian, telling her that she was going to marry him whether her mother liked it or not. When the mother stayed in silence, the daughter chose to leave. Unmoved, the impassive bookworm looked on.

          Next, she saw James. The handsome one. The determined one. The one who would give his mother a hug when she needed it most. The one she had always thought would be there. Thoughts can deceive, she thought. The librarian looked at one particular photo of James. He was playing soccer on a wet field, the mud clinging to his freshly washed cleats. The joy she felt washing his uniforms seemed of another world to her. She looked at photos of birthdays and of trophies, of smiles and of tribulation. But the librarian’s mind was focused on the way he left her. James had gotten into a prestigious university to play soccer, and the family couldn’t have been more proud. However, several days before he was set to leave, the mother discovered anabolic steroids under his bed. Tears trickled down her face as she confronted James. Angered, he warned her not to alert the admissions board. The mother didn’t listen to her son. Enraged, James trashed the kitchen and left in a huff. The quiet woman did nothing but watch

          Finally, she noticed Dan. One of the few people that brought light to her life. But with his light came intense darkness. Dan was the sweetest man she had ever met, but alcoholism plagued him. In fact, the woman would sometimes get home and find him sprawled across the queen-size bed, drunk and angered. The punches, the blows, the threats, all for nothing more than a ruined marriage and a life of pain. One day the wife walked into the bedroom to find her husband waiting for her. After the punches began to land, an internalized scream formed. The woman’s silence had never felt so loud. In an unusual act, the wife grabbed her husband’s hand before the blow and punched him with all of her strength. She was in shock. With one action, the kindness she once saw in her husband faded away. Angrily, Dan picked up the stoic woman, carried her across the bungalow, and dropped her petite body onto the stove-top. The woman hit a knob before collapsing onto the ground, unconscious. When she woke up, the sunlight was protruding through the window. The darkness was gone

          The librarian closed the album with a flourish. Breathing heavily, she attempted to collect herself. Years of apathy caused the woman’s memory to suffer. Disapproval, betrayal, and anger had pushed her family away. Every trauma she had experienced in the bungalow... The woman paused. The bungalow. This god-awful house, she thought. Every distressing ordeal had taken place in the wretched home. The eerie walls, the small kitchen, the over-sized library, she loathed it all. If only she could leave, too.

          Suddenly, the smell of smoke infiltrated her nostrils. The woman picked up her soup and entered the kitchen to a raging fire. The damn knob, she thought. She contemplated collecting several belongings, but instead chose to take only her dinner. Quietly, the impassive bookworm walked outside, sat on the sidewalk, and ate her Campbell’s soup as she watched the flames engulf her past.