Notes: This story uses Glee characters and their experiences, but is very AU, set a small liberal arts college. It is structured very differently than anything else I have written. Feedback is always welcomed and much appreciated!
It was just a regular notebook. The kind with the black and white cardboard cover that you can buy for less than a dollar. And it was common to see things like that littering surfaces of the library when tired and forgetful students left them behind. This notebook, however, was carefully tucked under the cushion of an overstuffed leather chair in one of the most secluded and private areas of the library.
It was Noah’s favorite spot for solitude when the university’s library got crazy with the sudden influx of college kids trying to learn how to study as midterms quickly approached. You had to take two elevators and weave your way through the stacks of old, musty manuscripts to find the tiny area surrounded by windows with just two leather chairs and small table. He sat for a while with his book open on his lap, barely pretending to keep his focus on the Music of the World: pre 1600. And he wouldn’t have even noticed the notebook if he hadn’t shifted in his seat, an old injury from his high school days revisiting him, and heard the sound of paper crinkling. Reaching down, he pulled the notebook out from under his seat with the intention of throwing it on the table so the owner could find it again and he could get back to instruments of ancient China. But it didn’t feel right in his hands, it felt heavier than it should, thicker, less uniform. Curiosity got the best of him and he flipped it open to the first page.
It was an intricate collage of photographs, sections of designs drawn in pen, tiny twisted pieces of fabric. None of the pieces individually really meant much to him, but it was the way they were put together that made him think, This is what lives in your heart. None of the pieces mean anything apart from the whole. He almost put the book down, realizing he was basically reading someone’s personal journal until he noticed the small image nearly hidden in the corner of the page. It was a dog. But not any dog, one that looked just like the Blue Heeler he grew up loving. That was enough to make him turn the page.
Each page was different than the last. There was the page covered in post-it notes containing bits of a story – whether it was made up or her life he had no idea – that were carefully taped into the book. He imagined briefly if she had brightly color pads stashed random places all over her apartment in case an idea struck that was too fleeting to run for her journal. There was an entry with a recipe for some kind of spiced bread neatly written in small block letters, topped by the much more hastily written note “Call mom, something doesn’t taste right.” He leaned in to sniff those pages and was enveloped by the scent of cinnamon. A spread of pages painted with watercolor images of a sunset, starting in bright oranges and fuchsias and settling into deep purple. There too he found the familiar handwriting of her notes to herself. “Watercolors are too cheerful for the sadness of a sunset.”
The last filled pages were written on in ink still new enough to smudge. The note scribbled at the top read, “Maybe if I write this in French, it can count as studying for my French midterm, right?” There was a block of text, whether it was a story or a journal entry, or a letter he couldn’t tell. Words were crossed out, replaced by better choices, or ones in the right tense. It was hard to read the story when you don’t know the language. The story he did read here was the story of it being written. Curled up on the leather chair with her feet up under her. Her mind working ten times faster than her hand could process how to write her words in the other language. He could see that sometimes she saw her mistake right away and fixed it, sometimes it was later on a re-read that she spied the mistake and had to jam the new words in. Why the idea was so captivating was a mystery to him. Every story has the story it tells and the story of how it came to be.
Before he knew what he was doing, Noah had ripped a page from his notebook of blank sheet music and taped it into the notebook on the next open page. There had been a melody knocking around in his brain since he opened the first page and he knew if he didn’t get it out and on paper, it wouldn’t let him eat or sleep or function. Like he did quite often when writing music, he closed his eyes tightly and let his fingers move as if he were playing the imaginary piano. His brain hummed with the notes until they were exactly as they should be and he released them onto the blank staffs waiting to be filled. No harmonies, no words, just a simple melody. Underneath the torn edge of the sheet music he wrote quickly, “Forgive me for intruding,” before stuffing the notebook back under the cushion he found it and gathering his things and making a hasty exit. Somehow he knew if he spent any more time with the journal in his hands he would have never had the courage to leave it.
For the next several days, Noah did everything in his power to forget about the stupid notebook. A term he had adopted in a sad, sad attempt to disconnect from the power he felt holding it. Sitting behind a piano in a practice room in the early hours of the morning, he could have kicked himself a thousand times for not copying down that melody before leaving it for some stranger. For the 3rd straight hour he pounded out notes on the piano that came just close enough to the bits of melody to make him absolutely insane.
Noah spent the week trudging through classes and meetings and hours in practice rooms. He got as caught up as his friends and classmates in the tension of this time of year. It was a week to the day when he found himself making the same familiar trek through the musty old stacks without a thought of the girl with the notebook. Instead he was mired in the worries of research papers, on-demand performances, and the impending train ride home to the warm arms of another awkward family holiday. Noah found himself mumbling the words that used to run through his brain when he was younger, “Maybe this year is the year mom stays sober and doesn’t tell the story of how dad left us on Thanksgiving and then cries till she throws up in the bathroom.”
He threw himself his the chair in a huff with his hands in his head. Why was it such a horrible thing to not want to see his family on holidays? he wondered to himself when he felt the corner of the book against the back of his thigh. Noah let out a discontented noise with the sad realization that she never came back for it. What did you want to happen anyway? Well, at least he could take the notebook home now and he could have his melody back. He sighed and flipped the pages open again, but his hand stopped cold when he saw that his music wasn’t the last page filled any longer.
There were new pages of notes. A collage of pieces of fabric that looked like a quilt. Another essay in French. A series of post-it notes including a grocery list and he shook his head in judgment of the no-pulp orange juice. A sketch of the constellations. And there on the last page – a letter.
Thank you for finding my brain here shoved into the cracks, where it normally resides. Metaphorically speaking, of course. Christ, why do I sound like a jerk even in my own journal? Dear music-leaving stranger who will never see this note, I am a half-crazy woman who writes like a pretentious ass even in her own journal.
Guess I can say what I want, now that I have the freedom of knowing you won’t see this. I never wished I could play some kind of musical instrument more than when I saw those notes on the page. But music was never my talent. Well, that’s sort of a lie. I rocked out in high school show choir for a little while, but my skills always remained elsewhere.
I wonder how you found my corner of the library. This is the old original section of the building, you know? That is why it smells like my grandma’s desk drawers here. But you stumbled upon my quiet, stinky haven and found my forgetfulness, probably right under your ass. I’m not lying when I say this thing is like my brain. And like my brain, I forget it in a lot of stupid places.
Anyway, stranger who will never read this, I thought I would leave you my brain again – on purpose this time. Happy Tuesday.