A case of mistaken identity in the Seattle Public Library.

I was oddly flattered today to be mistaken for someone else by a teenager. I don’t know why. I must be so old now that to draw the attention of a teenager is unusual, and, on some level, affirming.

I stopped at the library on the way home from a run, and I was in the “teen” section. (I like to re-read old favorites once in a while. Today I was picking up The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley, a book I read approximately nine times the summer I was 13. I can’t remember the last time I read it—it’s been at least ten years—and I’m curious to see if I will still find what I used to find in it, or if it will seem ridiculous to me.)

I needed to look up something in the library catalog so I decided to use the computers in the teen section despite the fact that they were emphatically marked for the exclusive use of those aged 13-19. I am pathologically uncomfortable with rule-breaking, but since I knew I would be quick I went for it.

Anyway, while I was using the computer I heard someone say “Tabitha,” in that insistent way that indicates that they are trying to get your attention. So while I ignored it at first, I suspected after a few seconds that someone was talking to me and turned to the side, to see a kid that I would have guessed was 17 or 18. He had long hair and piercing blue eyes, and looked a bit dirty. At 15, I would have thought he was cute. He looked me in the eye and said, “You’re Tabitha.”

I shook my head. “Not me. And I’m not even close to being a teenager,” gesturing at the sign reserving the computers for teen use. (I was obviously feeling sensitive about breaking the rules.)

“I’m not either. I just bought some beer,” he informed me. What a teenager thing to say. It made me remember, with nostalgia but also with cringes, my terribly embarrassing interactions with adults when I was that age. Like, for instance, when I was 19 and waiting on some older men at a restaurant. We were chatting and they asked what I was doing that evening. I  told them I was going to go to the local college bar with the fake ID I had gotten that day. The worst part wasn’t even that one of them was the owner of the very same bar and that I got kicked out later that night—it was that I was such a dumb kid that I would even engage in that conversation. I mean, sure, they may have been pervy, but I was an idiot.

But back to the library. Now I’m imagining that I have a doppelganger with a far more interesting life than mine. Hanging out with street kids and such. Is she a teenage runaway, a social worker, or something boring, like an aunt?


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