Un Regalo

by Larell Scardelli


I thumbed through a box of old books at a flea market in Madrid and cursed to myself how I wished I could understand more Spanish. Why doesn’t America love literature like this? I thought. Almost every other table of the long and crowded market was covered in books of poems and cooking, even comics and biographies. At one table I picked up a book of poems rubber banded together and carefully searched for the date, 1942. I could feel the man behind his collection watch me. I smiled and softly returned the pages.

I curiously and relentlessly thumbed through boxes and stacks and pulled out this empty oily notebook. Its covering kind of crunchy like an insect’s wings and bound together by fraying fabric. The date of my birth, written on the front in traditional Spanish numbers, but not a word written inside.

“Cuanto cuesta?” I asked the vender after lingering around for his attention. He looked at the notebook and asked if I wanted anything else in the box. I told him no, this is all I am interested in.

“Vale, un regalo,” he said, then walked back over to his conversation with a nearby neighbor. A gift. I held onto the weathered cover with care all day, felt my hands getting slick, but I didn’t care.

Old graph pages, the kind I imagine mathematicians use at night when they can’t sleep. The kind my brother used to use, or maybe still does when he scribbles numbers in a column. Facturación meaning billing or invoicing, but for me, it’s something a little less strict.

It took me a few days of looking at its spine from my bed to write anything. Thought about how beautiful poetry would look in between the little boxes, kind of like a contradiction. Am I thinking too much into to the coincidence that this notebook was born at the same time as me? But that only on March 3, 2014 did it start living when I landed my black Pilot pen on its transparent pages?

Am I thinking too much into the beauty behind my frustration of looking for literature and words from other people all day but then being handed blank pages for my own? These thin pages look so good with ink. How did they stay blank for 20 years? How did they manage not a word or number for the length of my life? Saved for so long, maybe, so I could give it a breath of rhyme and rhythm, or a doodle and a late night thought. And maybe to save me? But how silly is that? To think a blank notebook could save a lost writer.



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