by Laura Siegel

High School physics was never easy for me. Still isn’t 50 years later.

I was a good student and loved math and science but physics stumped me. I tried to understand electromagnetic fields but with no success. I don’t know what it was about ergs and mols but they were a foreign language I could never understand.

That’s why it was so great when Louis, a boy who sat next to me in physics class, asked if we could do our homework together. He was smart and helpful and more importantly he “got it.”

Pretty soon we were discussing voltage and currents regularly, and I was even beginning to get excited about little metal balls rolling down an incline. Well, maybe not excited. Perhaps I was more excited about a boy calling me on the phone almost every day.

Louis was handsome, gentle, and smart. The thing was though, that I totally missed the signals. I was so busy focusing on how heat makes electrons move faster, that I didn’t really notice Louis’ smile or the way his voice got soft over the phone.

After awhile, my mother asked about this boy who was calling me almost every day. I told her we were studying physics. Well, we were. She asked a bit more about him and somehow I must have mentioned that he was black. I had nothing to hide after all; it wasn’t a secret I was trying to keep. I actually hadn’t thought that much about his skin color.

My mother told me she wanted the phone calls to stop immediately. She said I would have to tell him or she would.

I was furious. We were only studying physics! He was so sweet. How could I tell him to stop calling me?

I was 16—so I did the easiest thing I could. I followed the laws of inertia  (the tendency of a body to resist acceleration), and I stopped answering the phone. I did not return his calls. I have no memory of how I avoided him in class but it must have been very painful for me. And him.

Also my physics grades plummeted. And though I graduated high school with math honors, I nearly failed the state physics Regents exam.

There is a photo of us in physics class, taken for the high school yearbook. I am placing a metal rod through a wire coil, demonstrating an electro-magnetic field. Louis is looking at me adoringly.

I believe that today I probably would have a crush on him.

Scary Stories (or the Halloween Costume that Really Frightens People)

by Barbara

I am a librarian.  This is not a new state of affairs. I’ve worked in
libraries for almost 14 years, and have spent hundreds of hours in
them before that.

I am aware of the librarian stereotype, and the pieces of truth you
can find in it, having been to more than one huge gathering of
librarians known as conferences. I like to think I don’t entirely fit
the stereotype, but hey, who am I kidding, I have a closet full of
sensible shoes. At least I no longer have a sensible haircut. Before I
was a librarian I wore my hair in a bun. often. Now I only do so on

Last Halloween, to be precise. I dressed as a librarian: grey sweater
set from Lands’ End. Cat-Eye glasses from E-Bay with a pretty
dragonfly beaded eyeglass leash via Etsy. Black polyester knit skirt,
black tights and black Mary Jane shoes from <ack> my own closet. Bun.

Two colleagues and I thought it would be hilarious to be dressed as
librarians at work for Halloween. And it was. Except for the part
about how people didn’t realize we were wearing costumes. Oh, of
course, the regulars knew it for the joke it was, and we put ourselves
in giggles just by catching sight of each other. (You don’t know how
hard it was to look severe in the photo we staged reading cat books.)
The planning was incredibly fun too.

I wore this costume to a ballroom dance party where few people knew
me. They could tell I was dressed up, but not always sure as what.
Most chose schoolteacher before librarian, although a few got it
right. Some remembered a person from their past (a few with fondness,
a few with horror).

I invested a fair amount of money and had a great time assembling the
costume. I love irony, so I enjoyed being a librarian in a librarian
costume. The thing is, it turned into a social experiment that I will
never repeat. I received two reactions to my attire. The one I saw
many many times…50?…100? was the hitch in the step, the slight
rear back of the head, and eyes flaring wide: pure dread. From which I
conclude that there are librarians and schoolteachers from some folks’
past who are filling a circle of the Inferno all their own. Eternally
re-filing hand-written cards. In Sisyphean auto-scrambling heavy
wooden cabinets.

The leer was less common…10? 15?  Entirely from men at least 20
years older….and it made me really, really not want to know what
exactly they were watching on their pay-per-view channels…eeewwww.

So this year, I believe I will resume my past years’ tradition of
dressing as a children’s book character that only one or two people
will get without an explanation (may even require an explanatory
badge), or dress as a mad scientist. I do have a science degree, but
since almost no one knows about that anymore, I can enjoy my irony in