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Tuesday Evenings

(You can listen to this episode on S3E13 of the podcast)

Shannon’s rainwater-wet wedge heels squeaked against the cool tile floor on the public library’s 2nd floor stacks. It was Tuesday evening. Shannon always visited this library on Tuesday evenings. She gazed past the tall metal bookcases on either side of her with their special labels. Mystery novels A-BE, BE-DG, and so on. As a researcher and tenured professor, she found most everything she needed through the university’s library and resources. Still, sometimes she wanted away from the chatty co-eds and into a world rooted in the concrete pavements as opposed to the ivory towers of life. Real, everyday people milled about all around her here.

She turned down the penultimate stack on her right, ready to curl into her favorite two-person table with the comfy cushioned chairs where never a soul ever cohabitated the space with her. A chair for her and a chair to rest her bag. In this secluded area of the public library, Shannon even deigned to rest her feet in the opposite chair on particularly tiresome days. The days when she sank under the pressure of being Dr. Shannon Burkes, world scholar extraordinaire. This seemed like her spot alone to be herself alone, nestled along an exterior window with ample lighting and outlets and quiet. Except today. Today someone occupied one of the seats.

“Shannon?’ the middle-aged man said.

Shannon, startled, scanned the face of the clean-shaven gentleman in front of her. His face, though pockmarked with signs of a life lived hot and fast on the streets, still shone with hints of future hope. His khaki pants clung casually to a thin but sturdy frame. His blue sweater was worn but clean. Shannon tried to reconcile this man with her last memory of him.

“Carlyle?” she responded.

Carlyle smiled at his sister. Her hair, once a bawdy brown, now dominated by grays. Her angular features now softened with the lines and creases of a woman who’d lived a comfortable life writing articles and giving lectures and grading papers over piping hot mugs of single-source coffee. A life he might have had if going off to college with his twin sister hadn’t been all drugs and partying and becoming the campus dealer as opposed to her studying and researching and becoming valedictorian. A tale of two siblings he liked to say. He stood and opened his arms wide to his sister.

“You look great,” Shannon said, recovering from her initial shock and embracing Carlyle.

Stepping out of the hug, she gestured as if to say how? And since when? Carlyle smiled sheepishly. It would be a long story, but he’d tell her his journey to sobriety. His last stint in the slammer. His release and fortuitous introduction to a recovery center where he met the sponsor who changed his life. He’d tell his twin sister the tale of his transformation from addict and pusher to inspirational speaker and recovery center staff. But first, he’d tell her the questions she hadn’t asked with her eyes. How he’d found her after so many years estranged. He gestured for her to sit and Shannon complied, all her faculties completely rapt with attention.

“I come to this library every Tuesday evening,” he began.



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