I live in a quiet bedroom community with few restaurants and even fewer stoplights. Like many other small towns, the public library is one of the more popular establishments. Having worked there nearly every day for three years, I grew to know many fellow residents. Few made as much impact on my life as Brian.
It was rare to go a day without seeing Brian…he was one of the most loyal library patrons we had. No matter the weather, he walked to come use the computers. It literally didn’t matter if there was a torrential downpour, 120-degree heat index, or a foot of snow on the ground; he came anyway, almost always wearing the same sweat pants, tattered black high-top tennis shoes, and NFL team jacket when conditions warranted.
I always sensed a sadness about Brian. He had nothing but free time and would stay all day if you’d let him—I once forgot to bump him off after his allotted 2-hr. time was up, and he ended up staying all 6 hours we were open. Each day was filled with an endless stream of social network profiles, chat rooms and girls (he carried a briefcase with a notepad to write down their information). His delusions of grandeur included becoming a rapper.
As it turns out, the chatting led to Brian’s demise. The way I understand it, he met someone from another state and decided to take the Greyhound to visit. I don’t know if Brian got to meet his friend. Maybe they enjoyed some time together, or maybe the accident happened before he found his destination. Tragically, Brian was struck by a car as he walked in that unfamiliar place so far from home.
Brian was 23 years old, yet he rarely left without checking out a Hardy Boys mystery book, dance movie (Step Up and the like) or gangsta rap disc. But the thing that I will never forget about Brian is what I learned after his passing. While researching to learn about the accident, I found his archived MySpace site. The summary of his page read:
I have been through hell and back I need love. [sic]
It was rare to go a day without seeing Brian…it’s been years now, yet I often find myself thinking of him as I drive through town. I half expect to see him plodding down the sidewalk, toting his briefcase.
His story continues to ache in my heart. This boy, or rather man, had no real shot at his dream of stardom and spent day after day seeking love and acceptance from complete strangers. I’m ashamed to admit that I merely considered him a sort of fixture and, occasionally, a nuisance. I regret that I didn’t always reciprocate the crooked smile that he shared so freely with the library staff. But above all, I’m grateful to have known Brian.
His story—marked by an abrupt, unhappy ending—is a stark reminder that we all need love and compassion.