Knowing Myself

The notebook is blank.

I envision every shaking laugh, every silent tear, every uttered word imprinted on the pages. Brown and crinkling and old, leather-bound and stained with memories and travels of my youth, holding in tangible form the fragments of my mind that threaten to disappear at any moment. On the cover, Chinese script which says something about knowledge. About knowing oneself.

My mind sees what it wants on the page but my hands, my incapable hands, cannot move to make it so. They falter, slip and shake, and mar the clean pages with my insufficiency. Permanent marks that will forever remind me of my incapability.

But the notebook knows. It knows about my hands and my mind and the shaky bridge between them that can scarcely carry a thought without swaying. It knows of my incapability. It does not laugh, or ridicule, or insult, or humiliate me. It caresses my fingertips with its rough, coarse pages, my mind with its solemn words – burned into the cover by fire strong enough to speak.

A gentle self-mutilation.

The notebook knows that I cannot turn it into art myself, so it helps me. It thickens its pages so that my tears do not carve craters into them. It bends its covers so my trembling fingers can reach the very edges of the pages, so my quivering nib can leave its mark all over and say “This is mine and no one else’s.”

With patterned tape I stick little echoes of what was, what could have been, and what will be. A cutout of a woman in a hanbok. A bill for a box of cookies. Fragments of maps. With a pencil I outline tributes, symbols of where my footsteps have pressed impressions into the cold hard floor of a subway station in a faraway country. I erase them. I try again.

It still is not what my mind envisioned.

The notebook smiles.

Go on. Continue. 

I write in asymmetrical hangul, my heart shaking with each stroke of the pen. Did I make a mistake? Is this the correct grammar? 

I finish the sentence. I turn back to the page I just completed.

The notebook is finally beautiful.




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