COLUMN: Fear and loathing in Charleston


Trent Jonas

Trent Jonas is a graduate student studying English and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Trent Jonas, Columnist

The freckled, bespectacled man stared at me, the fluorescent lights on the ceiling reflecting off the round lenses of his glasses and shooting toward me like lasers.

Dammit! He was on to me. Sliding my flask from my sleeve, I drained it, bourbon burning down into my belly. I swept the books and laptop off the table in front of me to create a distraction.

It worked: His pencil neck swiveled to watch as the tumbling tech and tomes hit the tiles. I flung the empty flask at his head. Missing, it hit the the purple-sweatered shoulder of the AirPodded woman sitting behind him, who looked up angrily

“Ow!” I bolted into the stacks at Booth, and buried myself in books, pulling them off the shelves and and onto my body, grabbing them by their spines and dislodging them—Rousseau, Nietzsche, Kant, Sartre, and strangely, Susan Sontag and Stephen King (mis-shelved, I figured)—knowing that if I covered myself quickly enough, both physically and metaphysically, nobody would find me.

Satisfied, I lay still and listened, breathing the dust and mites from the books’ heretofore unperturbed pages, their rough texture against my skin and the coolness of the floor seeping up through my shirt, soothing my agitation.

Safe! When I didn’t hear the approaching footfalls I feared, I pressed the soles of my feet gently against the floor and pushed, forcing my body and the pile of books concealing it forward, between the stacks, and toward the emergency exit on the back wall of the library.

As a scuttling pile of books in Booth’s stacks, I felt relaxed, confident, perhaps, even a little invincible. “That’ll teach the moron with the glasses!” I thought, as my head bumped, not gently, into a door.

Snaking an arm out from my carapace, I reached up, and pulled down on the metal paddle I felt there.

I assumed there was a sign warning, “Alarm will sound,” near the handle because, as I pulled it down, and forced the door open with my head, a shrill screeching, buzzing noise filled the building and echoed through the stairway.

Suddenly, dozens of feet pounded the floor all around, some leaping, some tripping, over me, as they rushed to get away from whatever tragedy had befallen Booth Library.

When everything finally fell silent, I lay quietly on the landing, contemplating my next move. How was I going to make it down the stairs with my pile of books?

I had already lost a few in the events of the the day, and I was loathe to leave any more behind.

Then, I heard a sound, and froze, listening in the darkness of my literary cave. Footsteps, a single set it sounded like, echoed through the stairwell, growing closer.

They stopped. I felt something kick at the books near my foot.

“Mr. Jonas?” Curious, I said, “Yes…?” “You need to come with me.” I moved my head so I could peer out through a crack between Übermensch and No Exit and saw a dashing man cutting a rakish figure in an EIU Police uniform.

“But officer,” I assured him with a wink. “I only had a glass of wine with dinner.”

Drink responsibly.

Trent Jonas is an English graduate student. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.