Little Black Book

I have a small black hardcover Moleskine that I keep in my purse. Sometimes I write down funny things that people say, sometimes I make to-do lists, and sometimes I write down excerpts from books or songs that I really like, or scribble notes on why x book that I just read or y movie that I just saw is interesting. Sometimes story ideas make their way in there too, but mostly it’s just whatever happens to be on my mind at the time.

I suppose I could call it a journal or a diary, but those words have connotations that don’t exactly apply to my little black book, I think. “Journal” implies that it is a daily chronicle of my life (and I only update mine when I remember to or when I feel like it); and the last time I wrote the words “Dear Diary” I was seven years old. Haven’t done it since. So yeah — “little black book” suffices.

I’ve been writing in little black books since I was in high school. The first was a gift from my father before a family trip for spring break — and some eight years later, I am now on my thirteenth little black book. Mostly I’ve written them in pencil, sometimes in ballpoint pen, and one book I wrote entirely in glitter gel pens of various colors. Fabulous. One of my little black books is a stained-glass Paperblanks journal (bought at the MMOA), one of them is soft green (a gift from a friend); some of them are lined and some of them are grid squares; I have two new ones with the cellophane wrapping still on them that have Tolkien’s Smaug embossed on the covers, and when I finish my current little black book, Smaug is up for number fourteen.

Rereading the high school little black books is a study of second-hand embarrassment. It’s one thing to remember the things I did as a teenager, but seeing those thoughts spelled out on the page is different. On the one hand — cringe-worthy, it really is. On the other hand — I remember being that kid, and the last thing she would have wanted was someone telling her to take a deep breath and relax. And it’s nice to have a record of how much I’ve changed. I can only imagine what I’ll think of Book Thirteen in five more years.

I haven’t been meticulous about this. I only just started dating the entries as I write them. But there are things that I wrote down that I probably wouldn’t remember otherwise. Watching the sun rise by increments on Myrtle Beach; sheep grazing on a sheer cliff edge just past the guardrails of the twisting road; the rolling green landscape as seen from the window of a train. I remember them better because I nailed them down with words, pinning them like butterflies to cork, imperfectly preserved but still here. And that’s the point, isn’t it?