I am again in the NYU computer lab, my makeshift workshop on my daily sojourn in the city. I had luckily nabbed this computer from a girl who was getting up almost as soon as I had arrived – I was thankful that I didn’t have to stand on the sidelines of the room, waiting, hoping that someone would get up soon. The girl rose from her chair, quickly stuffing her things back into her bag. I made my way towards the computer as the girl put on her jacket and left, noticing that she had left a rather large water bottle next to her computer. It had clearly been repurposed – I was positive that Trader Joe’s Mountain Spring water was not peach colored. I thought about stopping her and asking if the bottle was hers, but she was gone almost immediately; I shrugged and sat down – I was fairly certain that very few people in the world had the absence of mind to forget their gigantic bottle of peach colored liquid (though someone, evidently, had).
I had sat down to write about the strange liquid when my musing was suddenly interrupted by alarms and flashing lights – apparently or perhaps hypothetically, the library was on fire. I looked about to see if anyone else was alarmed only to see that everyone was doing exactly the same thing. I lingered at the computer that I had just so deftly acquired, not wanting to give up my spot – everyone else in the room seemed to be feeling the same way. It’s funny how people are so much like sheep sometimes, no one willing to move a muscle until someone else did. I myself felt like a sheep, sitting there, head swiveling about like everyone else’s. My father had always warned me about the notion of crowd mentality, and I, no longer wanting to be a sheep waiting for someone else to do something, decided that it was my responsibility to make the first move.
I did so sheepishly, getting up from my chair and donning my jacket, but kneeling back into my chair, swiveling about with my stomach pressed against the back of the seat, looking around to see if I had inspired anyone else to move. No one had gotten up, though a few people had remained in their chairs as they put on their jackets and went on swiveling their heads. I let a few moments pass before I stood up, exiting out of my online accounts, setting my bag over my shoulder and leaving quietly: I was not particularly fond of the idea, in the case of an actual fire, of being trapped in a burning library, nor, in the event of an hypothetical fire, of being told by an angry security guard to get the hell out of the building. I exited the building, watching people descend the stairs into the bowels of the building that was supposedly on fire, intent on doing their homework or watching Youtube videos even if the world was burning around them.
I crossed the street in the usual procedure of fire alarms. People slowly gathered on the sidewalk opposite the library, chatting away with whomever they had been with or busying themselves with their phones. I found myself next to a girl who was doing the latter. She was quite skinny, and had styled herself in a fashion that made it obvious that she was aware of this fact. She had a short bob haircut, her blond, slightly brown hair framing her boyish yet feminine charms. She wore a dark brown leather jacket with a red scarf tied around her neck, her tight, beige, almost cream orange colored jeans stuffed neatly into black combat boots. It’s funny how you can pay so much attention to the people around you and yet not be noticed by them; she didn’t once look up from her phone to register that I was standing right next to her, probably not even aware of the fact that I was wearing a similar colored leather jacket, or that I was Asian, or that I even existed.
I wonder if people recognized me? I certainly recognized a few faces because I had observed them before on some sidewalk or at some computer or walking in some hallway, each leaving a mark on my memory. I was almost certain that none of these faces recognized mine. There was one man in particular who had sat at a computer adjacent to mine on more than one occasion. I always recognized him because he seemed to be perpetually dressed in a velvety purple jacket, his long blond hair in conjunction with his peculiar attire always reminding my very distinctly of Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka. Wonka didn’t recognize me as he passed by me in the crowd.
The alarms soon ended, prompting the sheep (which included myself) to begin herding themselves back to their work. The quiet murmur that had permeated the crowd when it had stood across the street of the library waiting for the drill to be over quickly swelled into a symphony of voices, each conversation competing with the next into an ever louder hum as we all filed our way back towards our destinations and occupations. I laughed audibly and couldn’t help a smile at the minute element of humanity that was playing out before everyone’s eyes and ears, yet had remained unseen and unheard by most of them; this behavior certainly attracted more than one strange glance.
I quickly made my way back to my computer, hoping to reclaim my spot next to the mysteriously delicious looking liquid. I was oddly relieved to find this particular spot unoccupied, my strange, inanimate friend waiting patiently for my return. I felt somewhat sad, looking at the lost bottle, that no one, including myself, had decided to take the poor liquid with them, leaving someone’s forgotten trash to burn, actually or hypothetically, with the rest of the building. And so here I sit, writing about the lonely bottle that everyone had failed to take notice of, deciding to take the time to immortalize it in writing. Even if the lonely peach colored liquid had been ignored by the rest of the world, I would take my time to remember its face.