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  • Writer's pictureThe White Paper Journalist

Opening The Book.

Updated: Mar 24, 2022

Chapter 1.

It's ironic that I open the first book chosen at random off the shelf, only to discover two smaller books hidden inside it. The ring binders are bent, the pages soaked in blood, wine, and rain. This book has been closed for two decades. Exposure to light would dissolve the pages if they weren't hardened and compressed by time.

The first thing I find of any real interest is a page of graffiti. I used to write in an aggressive New York style and then go back and fill in the spaces between the words with symbols, dollar signs, question marks, @'s, asteri, hashtags (before they were a thing) and arrows. I wanted my writing to be honest, but I needed it to be incomprehensible in case anyone might ever come across it.

It takes a moment to figure out what it says. It's the lyrics to a song, Lovers Spit by Broken Social Scene. I had hoped it was my own lyrics but the phrase “All these people drinking lovers spit” stood out as being too clever to be mine. I had to google the lyrics to remember the track. I was never a fan of Broken Social Scene or their version of this song.

The version I had loved was a cover by a band I can't remember but they had touched a part of me I do remember well. It was a female vocalist, not the Feist version, I checked that out. It was hauntingly beautiful and sedate. I google it but draw blanks. I would love to know who that band was. Maybe it will come to me. Maybe.

At the top of the same page the words “I don't want to” stand-alone and unfinished. And at the bottom of the page in a very different bright orange ink, I find “I don't want to partake, I want to create”. It's repeated twice. As if I was reaching out for something. Like the words at the top of the page had found their conclusion.

The sentiment still stands with me, or perhaps I stand with it. It speaks of isolation and creativity. Of not wanting to be a part of someone else's project, but of wanting to create my own. I have no idea how long ago I wrote this, but here I am a lifetime later, the same sentiment still holds true. The same doubts do too.

I turn another page and then another, nothing. And then there it is. Amongst the (probably) drunken ramblings, letters to long-lost friends, and job lists I find a piece of my own mind. The first small piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society”

No, of course, it's not mine. But it was what I was feeling at the time. And reading it feels like bumping into my old self. The line was written by the philosopher Krishnamurti and I would be lying to suggest I knew who he was then or now. Or why he said it.

Another page, another incomplete lyric. More blank pages, and then -

“You know when you don't know why someone loves you as much as they do, and all you want to do is love them back for it?”

It's followed by a list of bands, the name of a festival, some instructions to myself that would never have made sense, much less have been fulfilled. There are some more band names written without explanation and then nothing. And that's it. That's all the first book has for me. It's like brushing shoulders with a ghost of myself. There's not much there, but just enough to make me want to open the next book.


In book two I find more attempts at learning Spanish, a bus timetable from Mexico, a police report from when I feigned being robbed in an attempt to claim on my travel insurance. There's a bank statement and a form from the benefits services dated 2009. My god, was this my life then? Just 12 years but a lifetime ago. I'm heartbroken for who I once was.

There are instructions written by unknown hands in unknown handwriting on how to get to imaginary places in unremembered lands. I will never know who wrote them or if I followed them. I will never know why I was meant to go if I tried or ever found them at all.

I find the creased and crumpled pages of a songbook and they unfold like a treasure map. They have a texture like old money and are stained by age. They feel heavy and soft. Ink runs over pencil lines, words on top of words, chord symbols on top of those.

I try to read a half-page of lyrics written in pencil, but the hard black ink of another thought runs diagonally across them. It's like trying to listen to a friend on a tube train entering a tunnel and having a drunken crowd shout over the top of you.

“I've no time left for crying (living), I've no time left to weep, there's no time left for this dreary old day, there's only time for sleep. And for you, there's just enough time left for you.”

I remember writing this, I remember how it felt. I remember my satisfaction in writing something short and succinct that didn't try to be too cryptic. It had felt like one of the best things anyone had ever written at the time. Now it's a shadow of a memory. I turn the pages.

There are two pages in this book that are heavier than the rest and they stand out as if bookmarked. The paper is held together with a silver wire that was woven into them spelling the softest of words. Between the words are hand-printed images of doves. The wire was bent into shape to spell “You will never know how much I love you” The wire had been nursed into the book without my knowledge by the hands of a girl I had met a couple of days earlier Our paths crossed for two, maybe three of the best nights of my life. The kind you never forget.

The sweetness of that memory cuts hard. Some things you will only experience once, maybe twice in a lifetime no matter how long you live. I turn more pages to escape the kindness that girl had shown me when I was just a stranger. The pages look like beaten-up boxers long past their prime. They are hard to read and hard to understand. Punch-drunk with hard broken noses and crumpled cauliflower ears. Their faces are creased by time. They have held so much for so long.

I find the story of a night when it could all have ended so badly. It starts “I'm in a recording studio. It's the middle of the night and it's pitch black. There's a girl lying next to me holding a torch so I can see to write. We have to remember this night." We could have both been killed that night. But that is another story. Those days were an incomprehensible scribble.

I find pages of lyrics written backward. Nothing here comes easy. The next page is upside down. It's as if I reached for the book on a ship rolling in heavy seas. I find a love letter that I thought was sent and lost over a hundred years ago.

Then there are email addresses of old friends I was meant to stay in touch with, of new people I would meet on my way down the road. And that's it, a book I carried with me like a partner reduced to just a few pages. I unfurl the loose pages and put them back in some sense of order. Perhaps I can even put them to bed.

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