Over the years, I had vowed then forgot to keep the volumes to similar sizes and shapes. Journals written in my teens were tall and narrow. I stacked these together and admired their uniform neatness. Poor years tended to be small. I’d gone through many of those $2.98 “Nothing” books and even one or two blank paperbacks. There were two heavy and expensive Record books covered in green canvas and leather bindings. These were the result of jobs where I’d had access to office supplies. A few of my diaries had been typed and put into loose-leaf binders. Funnily, I never re-read these.
If I couldn’t burn the books, and I didn’t see how I could without setting off the smoke detector, many I could toss them one by one down the garbage chute. I rearranged them again and sorted by geography.
These I wrote in Pershing Point, five books in two years, and I’d be there still if the demolition hadn’t started. Most of the Atlanta arty groups are still in a tizzy over the loss of that old hotel; the point was the only inexpensive block near the arts center.
The other pile represented Virginia-Highland, a saved neighborhood the look of which had grown too cute while the rents grew too high. I never could make any money.
The big green one I wrote in Prichard House up by Lenox Square. A small blue book from Little Five Points caught my eye next and I opened it. What a pretty handwriting I have, but very hard to read. This book was devoted to a love affair that had turned out to be important because I’d learned about being loved for a change. Reading it reminded me that I’d forgot what that felt like.
“The thing is,” I thought, throwing all the books back except the blue one and shoving a chair in front of the doors, “won’t I always need to be telling myself what I have learned?” I stretched out on the freshly vacuumed rug and turned slowly through the gilt-edged pages.
For the next week I talked to my best friend; my therapist; my sister; to all the people I never heed and whose advice I can for that reason hear. I told no one who is stronger than I. No men. Men are always telling me to go for it and I never want anyone telling me to do what I secretly want to do. The people I talked to convinced me not to throw my books away.
“You’d be throwing yourself away,” hey all said. “That’s your history,” said my college roommate in California. “It would be a waste.”
I yessed them all, agreeing up one side and down the other.
Which is probably why, on the following Saturday after doing a triple load of laundry on the worst day of the week, I walked up to the bookcase, took out all the journals and dumped them onto the rug. There was a voice telling me what to do. It was in me but I’d never heard it before. It was stronger than I and it told me to do what I’d made sure no one else ever would.
I took the Virginia-Highland books and the Little Five Points books and the two from Ponce de Leon and put them all into two plastic bags. I took the big green one from up near Lenox and slid it into my backpack with the five from Pershing Point tied up in a bundle.
to be continued