It is amazing how the past can spill over into the present, like early morning light falling on a hillside in shadow. Here is a remembrance of a friendship from my past triggered by thinking about an object.
I think of the repeated mention of moleskin notebooks by female writers. I wonder what they mean exactly. I picture moleskin as being that felt like sticky stuff Dr. Scholls sells for treating blisters, bolstering the fit of shoes, cushioning the bottoms of chairs to protect the floors from scratches. I think back to my own penchant for pocket notebooks and wonder if moleskin notebook is a trendy badge of identification for a writer because of Joan Didion’s writing about hers. I wonder if it’s like Birkenstock and long Indian print skirts identifying an alternative life style. I remember my own search for a small notebook that would neatly fit in my back pocket. I was always wanting to write something down.
Then I remember this.
I scoured every store I could find in the Greater Boston area. I wanted a book which would not only hold paper that could be replenished, I wanted it to hold a pen or pencil as well. After months of looking I found a tiny Etienne Aigner leather bound book smaller than a shirt pocket. It had a retractable lead pencil that fit into a tight loop of leather and a brass snap ring binder. It was perfect. But it carried a price tag that was nearly a third of my weekly paycheck at the time. I longed for that notebook. Not one to spend frivolously, I kept on purchasing small spiral notepads and clipped a ball point pen to my shirt instead. And secretly, I was reluctant to be identified with this fashion designer who reminded me of my mother’s “Career Shop” taste. I was in the process of truly becoming me.
A man was in love with me in those days. He was an only child, first generation Italian. I was the only serious love in his thirty three years, and he wanted to marry me. For my birthday the last year we were friends he presented me with a box containing three gifts. He said there was a present for each of the iterations of me. One for the practical tomboy , the practical thrifty hands-on girl and the others are for the soft feminine woman she conceals.
The professionally wrapped package contained three things: The oxblood red leather bound notebook with an embossed horseshoe logo I coveted. A dark blue Long’s Jewelry Store box containing a delicate gold heart shaped pendant with a tiny diamond suspended from a wisp of chain. A long pale pink granny style night gown with discrete lace at the neckline.
I left this friendship not long after these gifts were given, wounding my friend mortally, I think.
He was still living at home in the room where he spent his entire life. He returned each night to the bed he slept in as a child, his mother’s only son. I finalized my divorce because of him, but in the end I knew- he would always be his mother’s son, and she his number one. I had no desire to compete with that strong bond. I never said I was sorry and he never forgave me. He stalked me for years, heartbroken and enraged; sent vicious poison pen letters and cleverly insulting gifts. Then his voice fell silent.
Of these gifts, only the well used notebook remains. Its snap rings are rigid, locked in place with verdigris, the rich red dye has bled from its corners, the pencil and its replacement are long gone. The night gown, worn only once, I donated to the Goodwill Store. I left the delicate gold necklace hanging on a temporary cardboard marker in a perfectly landscaped enormous cemetery twenty years after it was given
I had driven from Maine to the grave yard north of Boston where this former love, this man-boy was laid to rest; then spent hours in this stark impersonal place where the rules on the map said no sitting on the grass.
Kneeling on the sod in defiance I tried to absorb the meaning of the moldering flowers, read the ribbons imprinted “Dearest Cousin”, wept. I had missed the funeral by a week. I was breathing in the past and exhaling apologies for breaking this man’s heart. I loved my friend, who I feel certain never forgave me. He had given me many gifts, his deep friendship the best of all. I told him so, in that place of perpetual care. I shared with him the parts of me that not even he could understand, forgave him there, for loving me.
© 2010 Jennifer M. Pierce, All Rights Reserved