The Statue Who Searched For Warmth
I had just finished my last raiding of the bookstore that is going out of business; its last day open is tomorrow. I crossed the street to get to the bus stop, and I saw a man sitting at the foot of a small statue. That’s nothing new; people often sit there because it’s a convenient seat that’s often empty in a square often full of people.
As I walked past the man, I saw, at my feet, a notebook. I picked it up and held it out to him.
“Is this yours?”
“Well, yes, but you can have it.”
I took a second look at the notebook. It was wirebound, and colored blue and brown. It was the size of a diary. It was very ragged on the edges. Its state looked how my three-ring binders looked after four or five months of use; the binders and this notebook were made of the same cardboard material.
I flipped through it, expecting it to be full of writing because of its worn state. It was mostly empty. I spotted a girl’s handwriting, and writing in another handwriting on the first page. I decided I didn’t want it. It was not just that other people had written in it and I felt like I was holding something that belonged to someone else; it reeked of cigarette smoke.
I said, “But it’s yours. Thank you, but I don’t want it. Here.”
“No, no. You can have it.” He mumbled something else about the church up the street and motioned to his pack that was leaning against the statue. I got the impression that he tried to give it to the church and they didn’t want it, but that might not be what he said.
“Please, sir. I won’t use it if I take it.” People are often giving me notebooks. I enjoyed the gesture, but I already had four or five blank notebooks at home. I looked at him closer. He had a full white beard and looked very worn. He had two trash bags, full of stuff but neatly tied, and a small luggage bag in addition to his pack. They were gathered around his feet where he sat, like boulders that had fallen off of the statue just come to life and then sat down in exhaustion.
“Are you travelling somewhere, sir? Where are you from?”
“Fort Collins, Colorado,” he told me. He held out his hand in greeting. I shook it courteously and then tried to pull away after the few seconds a normal handshake takes. He kind of held it there in a grandfatherly way, like he missed the warmth of a human being, or he was trying to absorb my warmth.
“Oh! And where are you going?”
“Fort Collins, Colorado. I’m just passing through.”
“Are you sure you don’t want this back, sir?” I could tell what his answer was as I asked the question. He was insistent that I take this raggedy yet mostly blank notebook.
“Well, it’s nice to meet you, sir. I hope you travel safely.” I stuck my hand out to shake his. I don’t know why, as I’d already shaken his hand. It seemed appropriate though, out of respect, farewell and meek thanks. He took my hand eagerly and did the hand-on-top thing. I gently pried myself loose and wished him a happy day, with a new journal in hand.
Later, I examined it. He’d written something on the back page, upside down from how the book was designed. I wondered whether his eyesight is bad, and he couldn’t tell which was the front of the book, or whether he was trying intentionally to be different. I couldn’t make out the whole thing, but it said something about Mother Theresa and the church up the street. His handwriting looks like this guy’s scrawl.
There is also one small sentence that a girl wrote. The notebook was split up into sections with a heavier paper separating those sections; each of the sections had a pocket built in. She had written directly onto one of those pockets. “And then, when the checker at the grocery store says to ‘have a great day,’ you can say, ‘I always do.(sic)” There was also a page of notes that looked like a list of business classes she wants to take.
There still is all of that stuff in the notebook. I’ve decided to keep it, to see if I can’t rid it of the cigarette stink. To give it new life. And all its evidence of previous owners is still there. It now houses a list of books to search for in bookstores.
I realized when I got home that I looked at several books that were on my wish list but didn’t grab because I didn’t recognize that they were on that list. So I’ve utilized the tabs and split my books into categories; the books will be easier to search for when standing in book sections of stores.
And I have to thank a man who travels the country for such organization. I like to think he carried this thing through all his travels. I like to think he kept it to record memories that he uncovered during the trip, but that he never wanted to write them down. I like to think these blank pages have been many places he has been but are happy to finally be written upon again.