Friday, August 12, 2016


I used to dabble in fiction, when I was younger. Living in Chicago, there were plenty of things to spark the imagination. Everything had a story, even if you had to make it up on the spot. So I jotted down, from time to time, imagined backstories of the things and people I encountered in my day to day life. I haven't done that in some time. It's likely been twenty years. But over on Google+, an acquaintance shares pictures intended to be writing prompts.

Yesterday, at the grocery store, someone left a notebook with their shopping list in the cart I'd selected. My interaction with the item was short. Still, I knew it had a story. But instead of imagining its past, I pondered its future.

*  *  *

Purple handwritten text on gray lines on tan paper. A short list of foods, and a plan for dinner. I picked it up from the cart.

"Miss!" I said, to the twenty-something woman who was walking the last yard to her car. "Miss, you forgot your grocery list."

She looked back at me, her face framed by short, dark hair. She shook her head. "It's not mine." She shrugged.

I closed the notebook, concealing its contents within its soft Celadon outer covers, and put it back where it had lain, before wheeling the cart into the store.

By the time I'd reached the checkout stand, the notebook, with it's helpful "Notes" label and copper-colored wire binding, was buried under chicken and bread and potstickers and a charcuterie sampler from California and shopping bags that I was reusing, and had been forgotten again. When it was uncovered, in the process of bagging up the food that I'd bought, the checker noticed it.

"Don't forget your notebook," she said, placing it on top. "It's a pretty color."

I opened it again, as I walked out to the car, looking for a clue to its owner. A "if found, please call," instruction placed inside the cover or a business card tucked between pages and pages of handwriting, but nothing to link it to the person who had written them. I looked around, even as I remembered that I wouldn't find a garbage can or recycling bin, not that I'd left the immediate area of the store. I replaced it on top, and loaded the bag into the front seat.

By the time I'd nearly reached home, I'd forgotten it again, else it would have found it's way into the garbage can. The one underneath the corkboard by the mailboxes that everyone uses to dispose of junk mail, advertising circulars and their voter's pamphlets. Or perhaps the recycling dumpster that sat a few yards away.

Instead, it found its way to the kitchen counter to join the clutter of a week's worth of never seeming to make it home on time, for one reason or another.

I came into the kitchen, for a last sip of water before bedtime, and saw it again. I had my drink, then picked it up, and took it back to my room.

The handwriting took a bit to decipher. Between printing and reading from screens and printed pages, my grasp of cursive had grown rusty. But the pages gave up their secrets without a fight. Tricks to fertility, instructions to stay healthy, concerns about money, lists of foods, admissions of errors and pleas for forgiveness, adjustments to life shared, questions of character, to-do lists, drafts of thank-yous, aspirations, feelings of being ignored and disrespected. And hope for the future.

As I read thoughts, feelings and a life that had never been intended for my eyes, a phantom coalesced nearby, to give form to the person who had wielded pen and pencil. And to speak the words aloud for my mind's ear. The voice was heartfelt, and powerful, even though it was completely conjured.

And then it was still.

Silenced by the steady growl of the shredder as it greedily devoured the evidence of trespass.

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