Stays Long Enough
Dr. Charles Wagner is the Head Librarian and Archivist of the Lancaster Historical Museum. He is in charge of the attached library and the museum's historical texts and paper artifacts.
Dr. Charles Wagner wakes up every morning at six. He uses the toilet at 6:02. Charles then showers for ten minutes, after which he combs his dark brown hair and shaves, using a brush to apply the cream and a straight edge razor. He enjoys the ritual and thinks the antiquated materials appropriate for a man who works at a historical museum.
By 6:20 Dr. Charles Wagner is standing in his kitchen, in his suit pants and undershirt; he waits until after breakfast to dress in the rest of his clothing. Charles always eats two eggs, over easy, and has a glass of fresh-squeezed orange juice while listening to the daily weather. Afterward he brushes his teeth. Coffee he saves for later.
Today is Wednesday and Dr. Charles Wagner has a meeting with his staff. He decides more formal attire is appropriate. Over his undershirt goes his white shirt with the herringbone pattern, which adds texture. He decides on a maroon, wool Charles Tyrwhitt tie and knots it with a four in hand. He then puts on the black vest from his three piece suit and black silk socks. Charles finishes by putting on the gold square cufflinks without engravings -- there is no need to be ostentatious -- and his black, single breasted suit jacket.
At the door Dr. Charles Wagner bends to tie his black dress shoes and pick up his briefcase from the end table. It's the end of April with a sunny forecast, so Charles doesn't bother with his overcoat or umbrella.
At 7:00 AM exactly Dr. Charles Wagner steps outside his apartment and locks the door, key turning in all three locks. He bends to pick up the newspaper, The New York Times, before walking down the two flights of stairs and stepping out onto West James Street He walks three blocks before turning left onto North Prince Street Two blocks later, at the corner of Prince and Walnut, Charles stops at a small coffee shop where he talks to the barista for precisely two minutes while waiting for his standing order to finish brewing. Charles enjoys these two minutes of conversation and is annoyed when the coffee shop is irregularly busy.
Dr. Charles Wagner then walks the five blocks to the corner of Walnut and Lancaster. He unlocks the library entrance to the museum at exactly 7:45 AM. Sometimes Miss Reid, who handles the day to day tasks of the library, or one of the graduate students he employs, is waiting for him. But today Charles is alone. He goes to his office and spends the next forty-five minutes reading the paper and preparing his notes for the meeting. At 8:30 Dr. Charles Wagner and his staff make sure everything is prepared for the patrons, and at nine in the morning the library and museum open for business.
Sometimes Erik hates working at the Lancaster Historical Museum, especially when it's an early Thursday morning and the previous night had been Erik's roommate's birthday and he can't even have a cup of coffee as he's back in the archives pulling books for the new exhibit on prominent Mennonite families. Right now Erik almost believes his theory that Dr. Wagner's a robot who has no understanding of human needs. Of course some of that might have to do with that deprived third cup of coffee and its necessity to Erik's brain's ability to function. But currently Erik's not in the mood to be reasonable, so his boss is definitely an evil robot.
Erik's just moved on to the geology and family artifacts section when Jess Martin wanders in. She's a grad student like him and, other then her coffee making skills and patience with patrons, Erik's got no idea why she was hired. Jess is always getting lost in the shelves of the archives and doesn't seem to understand that they're academics, not fashonistas. Like today, Jess is wearing three inch stilettos and a knee-length skirt so tight it looks like its been painted on. Erik's looking forward to seeing her try to climb the archive ladders, if she can. He's so distracted by this thought that he forgets his task.
"Oh, Erik!" That's another thing about Jess, she's always so goddamned perky. "Maybe you can help me? I'm trying to find the Stoner and Zimmerman genealogies."
"Got the Zimmerman one right here, but it's all on-line anyway," Erik replies.
"I know, but the couple I'm helping want to see it in paper, make everything more real. The internet isn't very romantic."
"Trying to check and see how incestuous the upcoming nuptials are?" Erik asks with a grin.
"Try to remember the rules, Mr. Jones."
Erik and Jess startle at Dr. Wagner's stealth approach. Erik's impressed. Jess seems embarrassed, she's blushing uncontrollably.
Erik spares a moment to consider a second reason for her tight skirts before answering. "Only you locals get to mock, I'll try to remember that, sir."
"See that you do. Also see that you treat the Zimmerman Bible with more respect," Dr. Wagner goes on to say about the large leather book in Erik's hand. "It's the oldest in our collection."
"Sure thing, boss," Erik agrees with a cheeky salute.
After sparing a roll of his eyes, Dr. Wagner turns his attention to Jess.
"Miss Martin, the materials on the Stoner family are the next aisle over, on the left."
"Right, of course. Thanks, Charles," Jess simpers.
Erik valiantly tries to control his laughter at the look of pure horror that just crossed Dr. Wagner's face. He takes everything back. Jess is awesome; she's definitely the best person to work with ever.
Dr. Charles Wagner buttons his suit jacket, its brown and his own quiet approach to casual Fridays. The museum's just closed; Charles' employees are tidying the library while he prepares his papers and himself for the trip home. Miss Martin and Miss Reid are discussing a new play that opened last week and their plans to attend it tonight.
"You should join us," Mr. Jones invites from where he's lounging against the display of books on Mennonite customs.
"No thank you, Mr. Jones."
"Oh come on. Help a fellow out. I didn't realize I'd be going alone with them when I agreed. All they'll talk about is how attractive the lead is and whether the clothes suited the characters."
"I fail to see how I'll help you with that."
"I'm rather certain they'd be too intimidated by your presence to gossip about those things."
"Well, thank you for the kind invitation, but I really must decline."
"Oh, got better plans?"
And he does, Dr. Charles Wagner goes to the Farmer's Market every Friday. He then returns home and cooks himself a complicated and healthy meal. After doing the dishes he spends several hours nursing a glass of Scotch while listening to jazz and reading. Currently he is on chapter two of War and Peace. On Saturdays Charles rises early for his jog down to and around the central park. He then goes home, showers and gets coffee and a croissant at a café before returning to the park and joining old Mr. Hess for a game of chess.
Dr. Charles Wagner is obviously much too busy to go to a play with Mr. Jones and Misses Martin and Reid. He'd get home late and have trouble rising early enough for his exercise. The play isn't so tempting that it's worth the disruption of his schedule. He appreciates his orderly life. Dr. Charles Wagner doesn't feel even a moment of regret as he hears his employees' laughter as he walks down Walnut Street alone.
It is several weeks later and 5:30 on a Tuesday in May. The museum's closed and everyone's finished their tasks; in a few minutes they will leave.
Dr. Charles Wagner buttons his suit jacket over his waistcoat, light green shirt, and golden yellow with brown foulard tie, which he had worn to offset the dreariness of the overcast day. Unpredicted rain was beginning to fall and Charles had not brought his umbrella. He scowled out the window at the clouds.
As Dr. Charles Wagner locks the library entrance he notices three of his employees standing under the cover of the building's roof while Miss Martin totters along the sidewalk, trying to hail a cab.
"Are you joining us then Dr. Wagner?" Asks Miss Reid when she notices him.
"Um…" Charles stalls, blinking at her. He has no idea what she's talking about.
"For Verna's birthday, I mentioned it to you last week," Miss Reid explains, glaring at Dr. Charles Wagner over her glasses. She's always so disappointed in him when he forgets about these social occasions.
"I'd hate to intrude," he defers.
"Oh not at all," Mrs. Timmer, who works the front desk, gushes, her round eyes blinking up at Charles. "I'd love to have you there. The more the merrier I always say."
"I'm sure having your boss there would just interfere with your fun."
"Nonsense, it's after hours now," Mr. Jones chimes in. His fingers brush the inside of Charles' wrist as he leans over to whisper, "Come on, her husband's out of town for work, so it's just those of us from work."
"Well alright then. I'd be delighted to join you." Never let it be said that Dr. Charles Wagner doesn't understand social obligations.
"Excellent," Mrs. Timmer says. "We're heading over to Giovanni's before going out to some pub. And you better stay for all of my party."
"Yes, and we're off the clock now Charles," Mr. Jones says slyly. "So first names all around. Think you can handle it?"
"Of course," Dr. Charles Wagner replies, tugging at the end of his sleeve.
"Great, come on now, Jess has got us a cab," Miss Reid – Sophia -- states, leading the group out to the street.
"You ever think you might have OCD?" Erik asks. He and Charles are the last ones left at the bar where they all ended up after supper. It's possible he's had too much to drink. He enjoys teasing Dr. Wagner, no, Charles now, but this bluntness goes a bit past that.
"Of course not. Following a schedule hardly makes me obsessive or compulsive. I do none of the odd things that those people do."
"Alright so you might not wash your hands fifteen times or whatever, but your schedule's not exactly normal. Who takes their fifteen minute break at 10:13 exactly? That's hardly ordinary. For one thing the number's completely random, and you always take it at that exact time."
"Don't be ridiculous, I don't always take my break at 10:13," Charles says, frowning at Erik over his glass of some incredibly adult and sophisticated liquor.
"Sure you do, I've kept track. I mean… on occasion someone might be holding you up, but then you start glaring and glancing at the clock every five seconds."
"Well…" Charles can't completely argue with that. "Even so, rigorous adherence to my schedule does not equal psychological disorder."
"If you say so," Erik replies, resting his chin on the palm of his hand.
"What is the purpose of this sudden interest in my mental state anyway?"
"Oh, nothing much. Just that my ex from college was a psych major and talked about this stuff a lot. Some of it must have stuck. And also 'cause I find you interesting I guess."
At this Charles looks down at his drink. He seems uncomfortable, and Erik hopes he hasn't just undone the last several hours of work. This is the most relaxed he's ever seen the doctor, with his suit jacket abandoned, sleeves rolled up to reveal pale forearms, and tie loosened enough to allow the top button of his shirt to be undone.
"I like schedules. They provide order, which is something this world's severely lacking," Charles explains. "They're nice, comforting."
"Well sure. But they're also limiting aren't they, when you follow them too closely?" Erik asks. "When's the last time you've been impulsive, done something not on that schedule of yours?"
"Oh. A very long time I guess."
"You should again, unplanned things can be fun you know."
"Yes," Erik states simply and slides his elbow along the table while he plays with his glass in his right hand. The warm, yellow light from the bar creates interesting shadows across Charles' face, highlighting his forehead and cheek, glinting in his eyes. Erik's never had a real conversation with the doctor before; he suspects they're being helped along by the alcohol quite a bit, and he's intrigued to see how long this one will last, where it'll go.
Charles' eyes glance away for a moment, out the window, before returning to meet Erik's own.
"Maybe," Charles says, with a wry smile, before finishing off his drink.
Dr. Charles Wagner's alarm goes off a 6:00 AM the next morning. It takes a full minute though before he has woken up enough to shut it off. Charles sits in his bed and takes the Advil and drinks the large glass of water that was left on the end table. Before he goes to the bathroom Charles makes his bed. Normally he'd let it air and make it after breakfast, but the linens are especially rumpled this morning and they're…distracting.
Dr. Charles Wagner goes to the toilet and gets in his shower. He spends longer in it than normal, a whole sixteen minutes. While shaving Charles gets distracted and nicks the skin by his jaw. Between the longer shower and taking care of the cut Charles runs late and doesn't have time for breakfast. He turns on the weather report and listens to it while he brushes his teeth and dresses.
Despite the headache he woke up with, Dr. Charles Wagner is in a good mood. He would almost call is festive. For this reason Charles dresses in his charcoal suit. He also chooses his striped pink shirt and ivory and pearl Raffaello Excellence tie, which he knots with a Windsor. Charles clasps his round silver cufflinks and buttons up the waistcoat and jacket of his suit.
Dr. Charles Wagner walks out of his bedroom and turns off the television before heading to the entranceway for his apartment. Because Charles eschewed his breakfast he is now back on schedule. He goes to the closet to pick out his black shoes and has to hunt for them a moment before he finds them in the back, where he kicked them late last night. Before he opens the door Charles notices that the picture across from the closet is crooked and taps it nine degrees to the right so it hangs even again.
Dr. Charles Wagner steps outside his apartment at approximately seven o'clock and turns the key in all three locks. He picks up The New York Times at his doorway before striding quickly down the steps and out onto the street. Charles walks briskly down West James St, enjoying the morning sunlight and light breeze. He walks till he reaches the corner of Prince and Walnut and goes to buy his coffee. Today Charles also buys a spinach and cheese croissant to make up for his missed breakfast. The barista seems surprised, but smiles when he hands Charles his order.
Dr. Charles Wagner walks the five blocks to the Lancaster Historical Museum and reaches it slightly before eight. Again he is the only one there. Charles unlocks the doors and heads to his office. He eats his breakfast and drinks his coffee while flipping through the newspaper, but quickly becomes distracted. He spends the next twenty minutes staring out the window until Miss Reid knocks on the door. She hands Charles a file and compliments him on his shirt. She chats on about how nice it was for him to go out with everyone last night and how he seems more relaxed today than he's been in a while. Charles smiles at Miss Reid before turning his attention to the file. It is 8:30, in half an hour the museum and library will open and the day will continue on its simple and orderly pace. Charles will finish work at 5:30 and head home. He feels energetic, despite the lack of sleep last night, so maybe he will walk down to the river or call someone and see about going to a jazz club or play.