As I approach, a 30-something man holds open the door for me.
"How are you doing today?" he asks with genuine interest.
"I'm fine thank you. Quite hot today, isn't it?" I answer glibly.
"You from here?"
He chocolate brown eyes search my own as my ears instantly absorb his thick African-accent.
Images of Kenya run through my mind almost as quickly as dust that wild zebras kicked up swirls through the thick, Nairobi air.
" Yes, I am," I lie, not wanting to expose information to a man who 6'3" frame could snap me like a crackling stick, brittled by the Sahara sun.
"Oh you are? I'm not. I just came from Florida."
The "i" in "Florida" sounds more like "e" and I can't help but notice the way he searches.
He is a foreigner. For what he searches I am unsure.
A fresh start?
I nod and hurry to the reference desk, hoping to avoid anymore interactions with one of Knoxville's newest residents.
A 20-something research librarian stands before me.
Silk straight light brown hair, shaped around her jaw. Lightly floral patterned green shirt set squarely on her small frame. Her left hand is adorned by a thin gold wedding ring fit with a simple, single solitaire diamond that says in a small voice "I am loved everyday of my life."
Scanners cheep and books are exchanged. Five books.
I wind through the linear homes of book.
Like the librarian's bronze-coloured flats with the small bow embellishment.
Like the printed words "G.A.P Authentic" on that man's hat. A stretch from "next-to-new" but certainly "used before".
Four pine-stained chairs station "my table".
Eyes glance my way, then dart back to the texts, like humming birds in search of nourishment.
Something new, they say.
"Viet Nam Veteran" on a hat of navy, and cheap, wooden crutches surround a man with a three-day-old beard.
At least to me, that's all I can see.
I can't see the scars burnt onto his memory of scorching days overseas.
Or his seven grandchildren who barely know him.
Or his mutt-of-a-dog who stirs in his tiny home this very moment.
I don't see his naked ring finger that once told of the volume of love in his now-bitter heart.