I have a notebook. I bought it a few months ago in a little mom and pop type store on Main Street when I was looking for a birthday gift for my daughter. The store sells all sorts of trinkets and dibs and dabs of things. One of those stores that really doesn’t have a definition or a theme. Obviously, the owner is just a collector and she sells what she enjoys. She hopes others enjoy it too.
I’ve always had this thing where I can’t go into one of those stores and leave empty handed. It feels like a rejection to the owner. I hate to feel like I’ve hurt someone’s feelings. It’s the same way I used to feel when I’d tell my grandma that I didn’t want another piece of her special homemade cake and could see the disappointment written across her face. Instead, as not to offend, I usually end up picking up a bauble of some kind. Something that I’ll later either stick on a shelf somewhere or give away. Strange habit, I know, but that’s part of who I am.
Under the careful gaze of the prideful owner, a sweet looking older lady, I sorted through her neatly arranged shelves of treasures. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I was unlikely to find the perfect gift for my little girl here. Starting to feel the regular guilt creep over me and not being able to slip out of the store empty-handed, I picked up the notebook from a shelf shared with floral scented candles, tea cups, and tiny colourful beaded bracelets. The book has a rich, brown, leather cover with cords that wrap around the middle; their purpose is not entirely clear. Perhaps they are there to secure the innermost secret thoughts of the unknown writer? The book is adorned with an intricate pattern on the front and is embedded with a smooth, cool stone in the very centre of the cover. The pages are thick and weighty, obviously, some kind of special homemade paper. There are about 50 unlined sheets, give or take, just waiting to be defined by what the author will pen on the hopeful pages. The notebook, it’s not bad, not exactly my style, but not bad.
I take the book to the cash, smile timidly at the owner, fleetingly making eye contact before casting my diffident gaze downward again towards the glass-topped counter filled with more precious items of special importance. I hand her the prize and she takes it from me, smiling back, and warmly says “These are pretty, eh? Is it a gift?”
“No, not really,” I reply, “just something I’m getting for myself.”
“Are you a writer?” she asks hopefully.
I chuckle, “No, far from it, I just like notebooks… ” My speech trails off as I realize how silly that sounds.
She looks me over, her eyes scanning me from top to bottom, trying to figure me out. I look up once more, my face reddening under her gaze, and dispense her my lopsided half-smile again while shrugging my shoulders as if to say “You’ll never figure me out because I don’t even know who I am myself.”
“That will be twenty-two dollars and sixty cents”, she says to me. I hand her the cash. She returns my change and hands me the bag in which she has placed the newly purchased notebook.
Hurriedly, I turn to go, thanking the woman as I do. I head towards the door swiftly, seeking my escape to freedom, away from the stuffy confines of the store, hearing from behind me as I cross the threshold into the bright early afternoon summer sunshine “Have a nice …”. I am gone from the store before the sentence is finished.
Once home, I take the notebook out of the white plastic bag and lazily discard it in the drawer of the nightstand beside my bed, wondering to myself what I will do with such a thing. At the time, I didn’t know what this notebook would hold. How was I to know that eventually, this notebook would contain my hopes and dreams, thoughts and ambitions. How was I supposed to know that several months later, the notebook that came from the store lacking any clear definition, would serve as a guide for the rest of my life.
It’s January. Two days ago I heard the news. The doctor’s words echo in my brain like a scream through the mountains. “Three months, maybe a little longer, six, possibly nine if you’re really lucky.”
“What do I do now,” I ask the echo?
From somewhere, in the depths of my soul, or maybe from an empty notebook in a drawer, I hear, “You live.”
“I live?”, I ask the impalpable voice.
“You have three months, maybe a little longer, six, possibly nine. You take that time and live,” the unidentified voice encourages.
“I live,” I agree.
I go to the nightstand, slide open the draw and pull out the notebook. I unwrap the cord from around the book and open the front cover to the first page. It’s blank. The emptiness of the white page stares at me, overwhelming me for a brief moment. I focus on the page, not knowing what to write. As if coaxing a response from me, I once again, from the inner recess of my mind, hear the encouraging voice once more, “You live.”
And I know. I know that it all makes sense. If I have three months, six months, nine, or more. If I only live another day or week. Or if I make it a year or two, or more. This is my chance. This is my journey. This is my time.
I pull a pen out of the drawer. I lower it to the page. The ink spills out across the blankness and the words almost write themselves, “My Bucket List”.
……… and now, I live.