Creative writing piece. Based on true events. His name is Ed. Or Herb. Herb the Herbologist. The correct term is actually "herbalist" but we didn't know that. And really, that wasn't the most interesting thing about Herb.
Or Ed.The names are interchangeable.
We found him on our exploration of the Herbarium Library. Neither of us knew what a herbarium even was. I think we half expected a jungle to emerge from behind the door.
Instead what we found when we pushed open the door was rows and rows of book stacks squeezed into a small, air-tight room. And Herb.
Herb was standing in the doorway-- like he was waiting for us. Files in hand, he looked at us through huge yellow goggles- I mean glasses. He blinked. And we looked at each other.
He asked if he could help us.
I wanted to ask where all the herbs were but Herb jumped in. Maybe he could help us find something.
We told him we were exploring.
I don't think Herb likes to go exploring. In fact, it was hard not to feel like we had intruded on an inner-herb sanctum. His sanctum. He paused, and then invited us in. If we were going to enter into his realm, it would have to be on his terms. He would show us around.
Thus our expedition became a tour and suddenly the Herbarium Library had lost all its charm.
But Ed had not.
He proceed to show us how the library stored and filed plants. I would explain it, but I wasn't listening. I was actually staring at Ed's eyebrows. They protrude over his inch-thick glasses, all wiry and coarse. I bet those eyebrows could tell some good stories if they could talk.
Every once in awhile we would steal glances at each other. I folded my lips between my teeth so that Herb couldn't detect my amusement.
Herb droned on. Something about cotton paper that preserves plants well. Herb could have used some cotton paper himself. His sandy hair-wisps barely covered his speckled-spotted head. His ear lobes drooped halfway down his neck. Right at my eye level. Herbie's lab coat engulfed him. It might as well have had a train.
We made a few polite attempts to indicate that the herbarium had lost its mystery and that we had best be going. But the case of Herb continued as he walked us to the door.
I think talking to us reminded him of what his voice sounded like. Because even at the door he continued.
Herb is afraid that no one appreciates herbs anymore. A valid fear. I certainly don't. He is afraid that he salary will get slashed again by the university and that his social security will run out. He has watched his neighborhood turn from a small 70s, yuppie community into a trashy, run-down part of town and wants to move. He can't afford it.
Herb the Herbologist captivated us, I think. His bony fingers rubbing his chin. And once we had escaped his lair, I almost felt bad that we had left him there. A small part of me wanted to invite him to the outside world. To join us on our snowy walk to some cozy coffee shop on the other side of town.
But Herb doesn't like to explore.