I have a secret. One that I wish to share with you so that I no longer shoulder its burden alone.
I never use the last few pages of a notebook.
As far back as I can remember I have coveted notebooks. When Aunts and Uncles from distant lands asked what I wanted when they came a-visiting I would always ask for notebooks. When my father travelled abroad on business I didn’t ask for chocolates and toys – I wanted notebooks. My favourite day of the school year was the one on which they handed out our text and exercise books. How I loved the neat tower they made in the corner of my room, some of the pages still stuck together, naked and waiting for the rolls of brown paper sitting on the side to envelope them. Opening pages waiting for the first pillaiyar shuzhi of the calendar year. My handwriting always neat and legible on those first pages, descending in to an unintelligible scrawl as the months progressed.
The one thing every school notebook, what-I-thought-was-teenage-angst ridden diary and doodling pad of mine had in common (apart from the poor penmanship(woman-person-ship?)) was the fact that the final pages were always left blank.
As a child it was (I think) that somewhere half way through the notebook I got bored. The shiny, newness had worn off. Its pristine pages were sullied. And more often than not, something prettier, bigger and much better had caught my eye. While I couldn’t bring myself to discard a half-used book I had no issues in setting aside one with just a few pages left blank. What was the harm? It meant I could move on to my next conquest faster and with a (somewhat) clearer conscience. (Though I did go through a phase where I drew giant, smiling sunflowers on these blank folios. I stopped when I realised I was being unfair – either I filled it with what I thought were my brilliant ideas or with nothing at all. The sunflowers were a cop-out. And a disturbing one at that.)
This secret of mine has gone on unchecked all these years. As a mature (ha!) adult who recycles anything I can get my hands on I realise how wasteful I’ve been. But for the life of me I can’t bring myself to stop. Whether due to force of habit, superstition or the fact that somewhere deep down inside me lurks a grubby handed 7 year old with an eye for nice notebooks I do not know.
Last year I treated myself to a moleskine. I loved the soft black leather binding, the smooth creamy sheets, the first page that said
If found, please return to
It was gorgeous. I’ll never be able to waste a single page of this one I thought. It’s too elegant. Plus, it cost the equivalent of a nice lunch for one at Busaba. I was quite smug until a few months later I saw another moleskine, its pages covered in little squares, reminiscent of French school notebooks. Ooh la la. My fingers itched.
Like a woman who fantasises of George Clooney when in bed with her husband, I thought lustfully of my French amour as I wrote in my faithful moleskine that evening. I plotted and schemed. Perhaps I could get the new book and use it to maintain my accounts. Perhaps I could ‘forget’ my current moleskine on the train. Or ‘accidentally’ spill cleaning acid on it. What a wicked, low creature I was. But it wasn’t my fault. I had no control over myself. Like Michael J. Fox in Teen Wolf (but with waxed legs and less facial hair) would I need to be locked in a cage too?
And then the solution presented itself to me in a flash of light and harpsichord playing cherubs. I’d just use up the last few pages now. So I inverted my book and began to use my book in reverse. Genius!
A mere twenty pages separated my forward backward scribbling. I hoped that I could find and draw upon a hidden reserve of moral character to help me cross this chlorine-free crossing.
Today if one was to go through any of my books they would find all the pages accounted for. Well, except for a few somewhere in the middle. But please don’t tell anyone. It’s a secret.