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Tears Ink the Page
Tears ink the page.
[It’s none of your business. Go away.]
[Zorra, let me in! I need to talk to you!]
[Zorra! Please, stop this!]
The smell of ink is still there, after all this time. The pages are still fresh in the back, where the writing was never completed. Obviously snapped shut in a hurry, there are smudge marks where the ink rubbed off on the other pages, someone in too big a hurry to let the ink dry.
Old notebooks. Love songs. Math worksheets never turned in. scribbling and hints of Spanish notes. Creative writing drafts and outlines. Phone numbers and addresses.
There is a whole stack of them. I’ve collected them slowly. It’s like a game: there are rules. It takes time. These notebooks are like a peek into another world, a world of somebody elses.
[Zorra, let me in! Open the door!]
Rule One: No one must know.
Your hair is like fethers
Soft, light-colored and beautiful
The wings you never had
Eyes bluer than the skys
You are my angel
Spelling errors just make them prettier. Poems by somebody else, never given out. Who was this angel girl? She must be very special to inspire poetry. The spelling mistakes show curves of emotion and inspiration: in such a rush to capture the mood, the writer had to forgo taking time.
It’s taken me so long to get all of them. There are rules to this notebook game.
Rule Two: No Stealing.
It has taken time. No stealing. Stealing someone’s notebook is just mean. At the end of the year, kids throw them out. Kids leave them on the bus and are too lazy to pick them up again. Too lazy to go find them. Their laziness is my treasure, my ally.
Most of them have few pages, worn through from ripped pages throughout the year. Some have just a word or two scrawled inside at the top of every page. They have personality that no other thing has: not books, not movies, not music.
The French and Indian War: The War that Started America
Washington admired Brits. Wash carried out harsh disceplines. Loved war, knew it was his calling. Indians and French fought for land. British fought also.
They are my teachers. Others used notes, scrawled hastily in class and never looked upon again. They hold information, they hold value. They hold bits of the world.
[Zorra! Time for dinner!]
[Come on, it’s spaghetti. You can wait with whatever you’re doing.]
Rule Three: I cannot write in these notebooks.
Rule Four: The notebooks are to be treated with respect.
The notebooks have gone through things I never have: carrying love notes, secrets, long bus rides, any imaginable thing. They reside at home. I treat them with care. They have a certain order in the stack. They have a special place on my shelf. Some are battered beyond recognition by previous owners, some are in perfect condition. These notebooks; some are old, some are new. They are all worthy to be treated like a hardcover-bound classic, be in them mere worthless scribbling or something more.
This is boring. Aren’t you bored? (Pass this back)
Yeah, Mr. Zullian has to lose the monotone. He is so boring… his shiny head makes my eyes hurt! (Pass this back)
That new guy, Mr. Smith, he’s kinda hot though, huh (Pass this back)
Yeah, I totally though he was a tall sophomore when he first came! I didn’t think he was a teacher! Pass this ba
Gossip interrupted midsentence. Entertaining, as well as informative. This notebook belonged to a girl, who sat near a friend and were able to pass the notebook back and forth. This notebook had been fished out of a recycling bin, no doubt put there by the Mr. Zullian whose monotone needed to get lost.
[Zorra! What are you up to?]
[Nothing.] Carefully I slipped the notebook open to a page full of health notes. [Just going through my random junk.]
[You want to go shopping with me?]
[I don’t have any money.]
[Don’t worry about it! I’ll pay. You need to live a little more.]
I need to live a little more… is there anymore little things to live for?
Rule Five: Notebooks are like people.
School is long, longer than life. School goes on forever: elementary, middle school, high school, college, bachelors, masters, trade school, veterinary, medicinal, school goes on and on, every type of school you can imagine.
[It’s time to pick your direction. Life doesn’t just stop after high school. Some of you will go on to college, some of you will go on to trade school, some of you will not. It’s time to choose what direction you’re headed.]
It is so far away. School, going on forever. It is too early to be thinking about it. Why spoil the thought of today with wishes of tomorrow when it doesn’t exist? All that is is now.
School tries to invade into the little bits of our quiet lives: sports, pageants, everything. Home is a safe haven, thankfully. My mother can be a bit too nosy at times, but she doesn’t ask of me things I cannot give. I don’t have to live in shadowed expectations. Zorra is a failure, Zorra will not get anywhere, Zorra doesn’t have a life. These thoughts are for school, not for home.
That’s what I thought.
[Zorra, you need to live a little more.]
Why? Why do I need to live at all? Existing is fine with me; living is too hard. If I’m satisfied with my lot, why can’t the rest of the world be?
Rule Six: Notebooks Are Not People.
Notebooks can be an escape, but they are not confidants. They are not people. Notebooks are simple, are sweet. No hidden meanings, no expectations, no lies, no frowns, no disappointments. Notebooks cannot take the place of people, and people cannot take the place of notebooks.
Why is this happening to me?
Why did the world suddenly turn on its head? Why did the whole dang school suddenly flip? Where is the world going? Why is the world leaving? Why? Why?
A new notebook. This was not like any other I’d had. Found beneath the bleachers, this one held new thoughts. Not a notepad, not a composition book, not related to school. This book had somebody else’s mind inside.
I’d never had a notebook like this before. This wasn’t innocent notes and new tidbits of information. This was sorrow, emotions. Maybe I shouldn’t read it. Maybe I should just put it back.
[Zorra, honey, is that you?]
[Yes.] I headed up the stairs, to my room. I could just put this on the stack without looking at it. I didn’t want this sad person’s conscious on my own. [How did it go?]
[The interview? It went well, I think.] she sounded pleased, but I couldn’t see her face from my position in my doorway. [Honey, how was school?]
[Good. Nothing new.]
I closed the door on my mother, her silhouette at the bottom of the stairs looking forlornly. She wants praise. Maybe once I decide what to do with this new, heavy notebook I can go down and chat.
I turned to set the notebook on the stack and gasped. Door flung open, I dashed through the house and stood trembling at my mother’s side.
[My notebooks. Where are they?]
[Somebody moved my notebooks! On my shelf!]
[I don’t know what you’re talking about, I –]
A ring erupts her confusion. The telephone. Aunt Jillian.
[Yes,] her trained voice through the receiver. [I dropped by today, but no one was home. I didn’t realize it was a school day. Cara, you just work so hard, I thought I’d give you a break. Yes dear, I cleaned up around the place. I threw out some old stuff that was just taking up space. I put a lasagna in the refrigerator for you too. How’d the interview go, by the way?]
My notebooks. She threw away my notebooks. All of them. All of them! How could she? One of the most famous rules of politeness was never enter someone’s house unless they give you permission. And cleaning without even telling us! How could she?
All I have left is the new notebook. The one that was almost alive. Should I read it?
It’s all I have now.
I can’t believe she just dumped him like that. Carl really liked her. He’s my best friend.
He’s my best friend! I can’t stand to see him so sad!
Why? Why? Why is Lou so selfish?
John is in the hospital now. A car hit him. A drunk, or something. He’s not even conscious. He might be in a vegetable state for the rest of his life. Nobody cares!
His friends aren’t here! They don’t care about him at all! John was there for Della when her dog got poisoned by that jerk who lives next door. He bailed Paul out of stuff all the time. Where are they now? Why aren’t they here?
Just because he can’t hear you doesn’t mean he doesn’t need you.
Rule Seven: Don’t form opinions on the notebooks. They are what they are. Nobody can change that. They did not write themselves.
But somebody did. Somebody wrote this notebook. Somebody real. This notebook is real.
I shouldn’t have it. I shouldn’t have it.
I shouldn’t have it.
I carefully returned the notebook to the spot under the bleachers where I’d found it. Now I had no notebook at all, but maybe it was better this way. Some person put their heart into this. This notebook was a part of them. Walking around with a piece of somebody isn’t a good thing to do.
I slipped away. Now they could find it themselves. Or if they were too lazy, somebody else would throw it away for them. Or maybe somewhere there is another person who collects notebooks, collects pieces of people’s lives and people’s thoughts, and puts them in a neat stack on their shelf. This can be theirs, then, if they so wish it. It’s not mine. I don’t want.
I will not see those notebooks again. Saving them from trash cans… in the end, that’s where they landed anyway. I don’t need other people’s notebooks. Collecting the world on paper isn’t living, or existing: it just is what I do.
Maybe I can start my own notebook. With different things in it. Maybe like a journal or something. Plays, stories, things like that. Graphite stains the hand and smudges on the lined pages. This will be my own notebook for now. This old math sheet can be the start. I can collect pieces of my own life.
Tears ink the page.