Falling Asleep in the Boston Public Library

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Fast asleep in the company of books

Fast asleep in the company of books

The snoring was loud enough to turn heads. On the otherwise quiet second floor of the Boston Public Library, a man sat with his head titled backward, his arms outstretched, his mouth wide open. I peered at him over the cover of Joan Didion’s “Democracy” and wondered what had made him so tired.

Was it that he was bored silly with whatever he’d been reading? Was it that he was overtired and needed to take a quick catnap? Was it that he had no other place to sleep? I’ve seen a lot of homeless people in the libraries up north throughout the past week or so. Better to wander in warmth, surrounded by labyrinths of literature, than fight the freezing cold, surrounded by staring strangers.

The sleeping library man seemed content being indoors, and apparently pretty comfortable. I’ll admit that I, too, have been guilty of falling asleep in the library. I used to take quick breaks, aka naps, when fatigue set in and my late-night readings of Chaucer and Shakespeare stopped making sense. (Yes, I took an entire class on “The Canterbury Tales” and two Shakespeare classes.)

Sophomore  year, one of my fellow Chaucer classmates and I promised each other we’d sleep overnight in the school library before we graduated. We had heard about a couple of Providence College alums who had managed to “hide” amidst the archives in the basement of the library, which closed at 1 a.m. on weeknights. After the security guards did their last round of checks, the alums said goodbye to the archives and hello to a slumber party on the main level of the lib. My friend and I, who were both book-loving English majors, waited until the night before the last day of senior year to execute our sophomoric plan, but then chickened out.

Given my odd desire to sleep overnight in the library, I couldn’t help but want to document someone else’s bookish siesta. I snapped a couple photos of the sleeping library man, hoping my camera’s flash wouldn’t wake him. I wish I had found out his story, but I didn’t want to disturb him from his long winter’s nap. His wide open mouth, and the loudness of his snore, seemed to say: “Please, do not disturb the peace.”