He left a note on a book I lent him.
It was 10 years ago and he borrowed my book. When he returned it, there was a post-it note stuck to the cover.
“Interesting read. Love the bookmark. – A.”
For the full length of a heartbeat, my world stopped turning; everything stood still in a crisp, white-hot instant.
I manically flicked through the pages of that book like a woman gone mad; butterflies surging like gusts of air out of my stomach and through my veins, threatening to turn my bumbling hands to water.
As if the book knew my heart was going to come crashing out of my chest and set itself on fire, it spat out a small, rectangular piece of paper.
On it were 52 simple words linked together in a short poem I scrawled out mindlessly between chapters of the book.
Because the book reminded me of him.
Because, back then, everything reminded me of him.
And so I had scribbled out 52 words and used the small sheet of paper they were written on as a bookmark. Oblivious to its importance. Nonchalant to its toll. I wrote them and immediately forgot them.
And I finished the book.
Months later he was browsing my bookshelf and asked to read it. Not knowing – not realising – forgetting – I said yes, sure; whatever. No idea.
A few weeks on and there was his note, all but burning a hole through the front cover it was stuck to.
I bring it up now because it has only just occurred to me that I still have the book. Along with the poem. Along with his note. For ten years I have carried that book through the countless hours and places of my life with no conscious memory of its significance.
It’s no wonder I can’t let go. That I still think about him and where he might be. How he’s doing on the path most travelled.
He’s been with me this whole time, sitting on a bookshelf that doubled as a bar. Languishing in storage – in a dark and untouched space. And finally displayed in my favourite room of my house. He’s here. Still. A small reminder of what might have been and who crushed my spirit. A token of everything and nothing.
For ten years he has travelled through the minutes of my life; a silent witness to my history in the making. An unwitting accomplice to everything in between.
And tonight I remembered what that sounded like.
I know, in Oz, there is a yellow brick road to lead you to the place where your dreams might just come true. But when you’re travelling with an orange clock, it’s hard to focus on your feet.
I’ve moved on now. I’ve not made peace but I’ve moved on. I still get sad and my mind wanders back to endless summers and green dragons in cars, but I’ve moved on. And I’m happy – happier than I’ve ever been. I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
And yet, in the room I love most he is here. A small trinket in a giant shadow box. A tiny speck on a spotless floor. A pea under the seventh mattress.
And I noticed.