Falling Asleep in the Boston Public Library

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.”

Published by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Mallary is a mom of two young kiddos -- Madelyn and Tucker. Mallary absolutely loves being a mom and often writes about the need to find harmony when juggling motherhood and work. Mallary is the Assistant Director of the Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas at the University of Texas at Austin, where she manages the Center's various programs related to distance learning, freedom of expression, and digital journalism. Previously, she was Executive Director of Images & Voices of Hope and Managing Editor of The Poynter Institute’s media news site, Poynter.org. Mallary grew up outside of Boston and graduated from Providence College in Rhode Island. In 2015, she received a certificate in nonprofit management from Duke University. She now lives in beautiful Austin, Texas, with her kids, husband Troy and cat Clara. She's working on a memoir, slowly but surely. You can reach her at mjtenore@gmail.com.

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