Written, Read, or Spoken

With a sigh Jenny slumped down into the hard plastic chair and set her suitcase on the floor at her feet. Her whole body ached and she longed for the comfort of her bed, but she knew that she was a long ways from falling into its welcome embrace. The air smelled of overcooked coffee and some sort of strong cleaning chemical. Glancing to her right she saw the janitor frantically trying to clean a section of the tiled floor before the next group of passengers came in. That explained the cleaning chemical; the overcooked coffee scent remained an unsolved mystery.

She leaned back into the chair and rolled her head to the left, the board clearly showing that her flight would not be arriving for another four hours; a long wait for someone who had already gone through three other flights with no real rest to speak of. Home was beginning to seem like a distant hope that would never be realized.

Heaving another heavy sigh, she let her arms fall to her sides and was surprised when only one of her hands came in contact with the familiar hard plastic. Her left hand instead encountered what felt like cardboard. She shifted and looked down at the seat next to her.

Set in the exact center of the seat was a tattered green notebook. She curled her fingers around it and brought it into her lap to inspect it further. It looked like it had seen as many miles as she had and yet was well loved. The edges of the paper between the well-worn covers were greying with repeated handling and the paper itself was beginning to show the yellow of age. Someone had left it behind obviously, most likely now scurrying around frantically in a desperate search to find their treasured notebook.

She sat staring at the fading cover for an unknown amount of time, thoughts running through her head of what kind of things lay inside. Was it full of poetry to an intimate friend? Was it filled to the brim with sketches of fantastic worlds and colorful characters? Was it full of writings of adventures in far-away places complete with maidens in distress and knights on white horses? Or was it just a book of plans and travel itineraries? She wondered if she should dare look inside. To peek beneath the covers seemed almost a sin; it was someone else's life that lay in her hands after all. It was someone else's thoughts that were scribbled upon its pages. What right did she have to intrude?

But then again, it was obviously well-traveled; someone had to be looking for it. There might be a name inside, an address, and it could be returned. She opened up the front cover and peered at the light brown interior, a frown creasing her brow. There was writing there, but it had been faded and worn away with frequent use. There was no way to make out what the writing said, much less who the thing belonged to. With no other choice she began to flip through the pages to see if there were any other clues to be found. But what she saw didn't seem to make any sense.

The whole thing was filled with small paragraphs, all written in different inks, styles, and sizes. Even the languages varied. This was not the work of a single person, of that she was sure. Many people had written in the thing over what appeared to be years, if the dates above some of the paragraphs were anything to go by.

Curiosity soon got the better of her and she began to read what she could of the entries. They were just as varied as the people who had written them.

Today I go to visit my brother. He is waiting for the birth of his first child and he has requested that I be there. I think he is being a little sentimental about the whole thing, but I am going anyway. Call me a sucker for sentimental fools, and don't tell him anything.

Life is rough. I have lost my job and am forced to return home to my family with nothing to show for all my hard work. I guess you can't trust anything when it comes to the world of business.

Vacation time has piled up and now I am off to see the wilds of Africa. Best buddies at my side and a backpack full of the bare necessities, doesn't get much better than that. I shall return with a camera full of pictures, a head full of memories, and hopefully all of my friends still in tow. Wildlife photography is unpredictable after all, and come to think of it, so is Jimmy. If any of us will be mauled by an angry lion it will probably be Jimmy. Sorry, dude, that's the facts of life for you.

My aunt is coming in today to stay with us. I wish she didn't have to come. Funerals should never be the reason for a family coming together.

My wife comes back today. I can't wait to see her smile again. Roses always make her smile.

Jenny fingered the pressed petal of a rose that sat lightly upon the page below the last entry. Another detail that spoke deeply of a moment of a person's life, caught inside the aging pages. All of the entries were snippets of people's lives, hopes, happy moments, and sorrows. Some were faded, some were in French, Spanish, German, Korean, and even a line or two of what appeared to be Finnish.

Jenny was about to flip to the back of the book when she saw that a small slip of paper had settled to the floor between her feet. It had probably fallen out of the thing when she had first opened it and she hadn't noticed. She closed the notebook and bent down to retrieve the scrap of paper. Neatly printed in faint black ink were two simple lines.

Lives and thoughts travel far. When shared, burdens are halved, and joys are doubled.

Jenny opened the notebook again and peered once more at the writing on the inside of the cover. From the little bits that she could still make out she could tell that the slip of paper was the same as what had been written on the cover. Unable to rewrite the instructions on the inside of the cover due to the deteriorating cardboard, someone had taken it upon themselves to copy the message down. It did appear as though it had once been glued over the original writing at one time.

The little torn scrap of paper explained it all. Someone had placed this notebook here for a reason, to let others vent their frustrations, put their thoughts into words and feel a little better for it. To share a joy of a life lived on the edge, or a new life about to happen. Whatever it was that they felt they needed to express. And now she looked at the entries with a new viewpoint. No matter what her life was like at the moment, someone who had come through this same airport, sat in these same chairs, and picked up this same notebook, was facing something similar. It said something so simple, and yet so profound that she felt tears coming to her eyes. Happy or sad, she was not alone. And so there was only one thing left for her to do.

The notebook was back in its place on the blue plastic chair, waiting for the next person to come along and peruse its pages. But now there was one more entry. It was not very long, but it had been penned with care.

I am going home, though there will be no family there to greet me. None of them remain. Yet, though my house may be empty, my heart is no longer vacant. For words are healing, be they written, read, or spoken.


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