If you would have asked anyone about the person who lived in apartment 107 they would have responded with something like, “I thought that place was vacant,” or “I saw him once. He’s a weird one.” The truth is someone did live in 107, and he was one of those quiet types. Often he’d listen the his music at just the right volume so he could barely hear it, not even a whisper able to be heard through the paper-thin walls, unlike his neighbor, who often could be heard talking on the phone about the latest piece of gossip she had picked up. He heard it all, and promptly forgot it, because he felt like a gentleman should be respectful of others, even those he did not know. He was one of those types, and even more. As such, he led a lonely existence. 

One might think that his type of person would attract all sorts, those who wished to be praised for their excellent abilities in art, music, literature, or philosophy, he appreciated them all. Perhaps those who needed the kind words of a soft-spoken, but well-informed, man. Some could use his advice in the ways of this, or that, or whatever it was someone would want to know. If he did not know the answer, it was assured that he would find it for the inquirer. Those who were aware of him, mostly those outside of his building, assumed he had many a friend or confidant, or whatever the case may be. It was for that reason, exactly, and that reason alone, that Adam was completely alone. Adam lived his life as a simple person, and he tried to never bother anyone with his cares. As such, no one was ever bothered to know Adam in more than a passing knowledge, and Adam was never bothered to make a fuss about the situation.

That is until Adam met Penny. Adam worked in a library, which could be said to fit one of his respectful, dignified nature. He liked his job, because he got to take care of older books that were slowly dying from the thing that kills all: time. Adam’s job was to sit in a room all day and to restore books that were brought from all over the world. The job fit Adam, and his quiet nature, often he would spend the whole day without seeing anyone else he worked with. Largely he was ignored, because he did not make the normal efforts to become friends with his co-workers. Many didn’t even know his name, just that he was the “Restorations guy”. So it was that Adam worked in the quietest place in the city, a library, and the quietest part of the library.

Penny had been hired as an extra hand, someone to run between offices carrying messages, answering phones when people had to step away from their desks, and generally the types of things that any big building needs someone to do when only a select few work there. Penny’s fist task in the Library was to introduce herself and learn a bit about each of the offices so she could be effective at her job. It was for this reason that she lightly knocked on the door of Adam’s office, mostly glorified lab with a desk in the corner, and all the implements to preen over the brittle pages of ancient books front and center.

“Hello,” she began, when she was him look up from his work. “My name is Penny. I’ve been hired to be the office ‘gopher’, you know, errand girl. Anyway, I was asked to come by here and introduce myself and see what it is you do so I can be of help if you ever need it.” She recited the lines in a manner that suggested this was not the first time she had said them. Adam knew she must be getting tired of having to say the same thing, ask the same questions, and listen to the same answers that everyone else give. He could sympathize with her, just because that was the way he thought. He decided he would liven things up just a bit.

“Hello, Penny. My name is Adam. It’s a pleasure to meet you,” he said, standing and removing his gloves. She smiled at him, in the way that is required when someone  is greeted cordially, and then stood waiting, somewhat impatient for things to get moving. Penny was not the most patient of individuals, having an attitude that life was passing before her in leaps and bounds and if she did not go out to experience it she would regret it until the day she died. This made her seem flighty, unsettled, and starkly young. It was showing now as she wished to finish up her task and move on to the next that would be required of her. Adam, however, only smiled at her, and gestured her forward.

“Please, take a seat,” he motioned to the high stool that sat behind the large raised metal platform that held his tools and his latest work. “You’ll need to put on these gloves,” she shot him a glance of astonishment as she settled herself onto the stool. “Just put them on. This office restores old books, manuscripts, that type of thing. The oils in your fingers would just hasten the process, so you have to wear gloves if you handle anything in here. Now, the book in front of you is several hundred years old, from France. Do you speak French?” She shook her head at the question, still wondering what she might be doing sitting at his desk. “Well, no matter, the book is still very old and needs gentle treatment. You see, the binding is letting the pages slip free. The goal is to record the information in the book, then restore and repair it as best we can. What you’re about to do is turn the page.”

Her shocked look made Adam smile on the inside. It wasn’t that he enjoyed the ruse as much as the reaction to it. The book, while old, and somewhat valuable, was in much better condition that it seemed. However, if she were to develop a respect and understanding for how valuable and careful one had to handle older volumes, this would be the best way to teach her. He could sense, from the moment he saw her, that she was impatient, headstrong, and very resistant to being told what to do unless something was of the utmost importance. He could understand, and valued, her individuality, but sometimes there were lessons that must be learned.

“I’m not sure I should be doing this,” her voice rang with the uncertainty of someone who took one step too far into the lion’s den and just now realized that the animals were home.

“Nonsense,” he said quietly. Walking beside her, he gave her instructions on how to flip the page without putting too much pressure on the binding. She reached for the page in the way he taught her, but did it too quickly, and he made a slight cough in the back of his throat that caused her to freeze. Moving behind her, he placed his hand on hers. In that briefest of touch he felt not only his body, but his soul, shiver. It was as if every nerve ending in his skin came alive and he felt goosebumps prickle up on his arms and down his neck and back. He felt as if he had walked from a hot room onto an iceberg and he basked in the refreshing feeling that flowed through him. He felt her stiffen at his touch, her body becoming rigid and tense. He let her hand slip from his, and then backed away from the desk.

She stood wordlessly, removed the gloves, and walked from the room. He was not sure what had just happened, but he knew she had felt it as well. She had not acknowledged what had happened, and walked away from him without speaking, but he knew that she had felt the same thing he had. A connection between the two of them that suddenly made his life feel darker without it. Perhaps he should try to catch her, to ask her if she was feeling what he was feeling now, the twisted despair of not being close to her. Adam, a man who had gone through life alone, walking the empty streets of his years with a heedless stride, unaware of what he was missing, was shocked to find himself lonely. In the briefest connection she had turned the beacon light of life upon his face, but now it was removed and she was gone.

He slumped onto the stool at his desk, placing his elbows on the table, and let his head sink into his hands. He began to read the words of the book in front of him, though he spoke very little French he had learned enough to copy the words correctly. He spoke them aloud, stumbling over the translation in his mind, “The passion of love, experienced when one being’s fate is intertwined with another’s is the most powerful of forces. It can be understood by few, but felt by many.”

He sat silently, contemplating the words. Surely they were just a coincidence, some ramblings of a French love song. He had felt it though, and he was determined to see if she had felt it as well.