Back a few years ago, when I was in college, I became good friends with a girl named Stella, that was one of the most popular students in the whole facility. How this happened nobody really knows, and I still have doubts about how it came to be, as in general, I'm one of the most introverted persons one could meet.
If you were to attend a party where I was participating in, you would find me usually distantiated in some corner, drinking awkwardly his drink in utter reticence and most often than not I would be the last person you would meet in the place, for been rather hard to open up to.
That doesn't mean that I didn't have any friends at all, or that I wouldn't be fond of meeting other people in general. My happiness can be measured in the few sheer moments I experienced with friends and good company and I was always fond of sharing a good few drinks with others when the opportunity for it would arise.
But it was rather strange that this girl, in her unsuspecting wholesomeness, with the ability to have any friend she would desire to, out of the whole school, and the ability to charm anyone who would happen to cross her field, chose me to be the one she would spend time with and with which she would decide to ally against a world full of question marks and threats as one may seem to a young adult.
She had an impressive cordial personality that would shine through her radiant smile and warm voice. Her face was marked by two dimples in each of her cheeks that would mark her face with a very distinct characteristic and one that would make you remember it forever no matter how long ago you saw it. No matter what situation you were in, you would naturally find yourself drawn to her which I never really understood where it originated from. Maybe it was her incredible lightness with which she would carry herself in the world. Or her inability to feel aversion to anything that she would confront even when it would make other people cringe or shun in response.
No matter what it was, I got to meet her for the first time in one of those literature classes that we would embark on, that we happened to seat at the same row in neighboring desks and through which I got to familiarize myself with this ethereal entity in one lazy afternoon in the back seats of the class.
I had noticed a yellow card attached to her bag depicting a cute little cat face with a bumpy nose and a wide smile and luckily for me, I decided to put my papercraft skills into practice as I had immersed myself into the art a long time ago when I would often create origami animals with sheer paper. This time I decided to create a little dolphin, which I carved with two beautiful eyes on each side and a white belly underneath it to complete the masterpiece. Once I gave it to her, her response was quite enthusiastic and she immediately jumped on board to learn more about it.
"That's so cool. Can you show me how to do it? What other animals can you make?"
Luckily for me, I had enriched my abilities in origami since the day I first saw one lion when I was only 7 years old. Since then I had improved my skills by often practicing on some new design I would find and I had made my room quite full of them, never really showing any of it to the outside world. We spend the next couple of hours getting fully engaged with it and the class passed on unwitnessed like background noise to our primary task.
I don't really know why I had chosen the class for I never really paid any attention to analyzing books in an academic way. I would love to read them of course and many times I would spend days engrossed in some novel that would happen to fall on my hands and pull me into it, but I never really considered the possibility of me becoming a writer or saw any point in analyzing the greats in such a mathematical way that seemed so essentially absurd.
And neither did I ever saw her paying any attention to it either, which made me think that the same situation was going on with her and when I asked her about it, all I managed to get was, "It's better than physics" which I couldn't agree more.
At one occasion while sitting in my apartment --which was mostly consisted of a single room that everything was compacted inside like a storage room the people would use to dump things in-- she divulged to me that she had been keeping a journal and that writing in it had been therapeutic and helped her work out many ideas that were strolling in her mind, aimlessly without scope or order.
"Do you write about your thoughts and stuff?" I had asked with all the naivety of my ignorant mind.
"Thoughts, feelings, events. Anything that might catch my eye."
"Isn't that boring? I can't think of anything I would write about that could be of interest this way."
"Well, the good thing is that it doesn't have to be interesting. I mean you are the only one who will ever gonna see it. That's the point of it,"
"Could I read something of yours?"
My question certainly caught her by surprise but I couldn't fathom at that point in time what a journal entry like that would look like and most above all, I couldn't think what was occupying Stella's mind so intensely that she had to put it on paper to make sense of it. She leaned her head back in the usual way she would do when hearing something bizarre and then came back on me.
"Why would you want to read something like that?"
"I'm curious," I said.
"The point of a journal is that it is personal. Otherwise, it wouldn't be a journal. It would be a book."
"I would still like to read some of it."
"Sometimes you are so stubborn,"
I left a random shrug let, which intrigued her even more.
"OK, maybe I can show you one of my latest entries. but I doubt you would find any interest in it,"
"What is it about?" I asked.
"Is it something I know about?"
She glanced at me with a 'no comment' response that gave me no option but to drop the subject. Little can be said about how curious I was about reading something like that. Surely reading a book or a short story is one thing that comes out of someone's mind, but one can imagine how a writer can obscure parts of the story that reflect straight on him and God knows how the plot really relates to his life. Maybe a character is someone that he happened to meet at some point a few years back and inspired him to create the story. Maybe the plot is derived from real-life events that happened to someone he knew or to some relative of him that he thought good material to mix together with fiction and create something like a hybrid story that is half true, half fake. Some people claim that all novels hide some aspect of the writer's psyche somewhere within and that no piece can be written that doesn't contain a good part of it in it.
That's something I could understand and relate with, having tried a few stories in the writing class not with huge success I should say.
But a journal is a completely different sport altogether. A journal contains no pretensions, no figments of imagination of any sort, or anything fake that the writer would add to embellish the story and make it look nicer. A journal is just as it is, a full narration of an event as it happened in someone's life filtered through the eyes of its writer in a way that leaves no space for fiction. Kind of scary and heavy if you really think about it.
She had promised me that she would derive the entry through a scanner and send it over to me via email as I carefully jotted it down in a piece of paper that I handed over to her. I had doubts about whether she would actually follow along with her promise and thought about how she would forget to commit the act or re-think the incident and change her mind fearing the hurdle of sharing something so intricate with a guy she only met a few months ago.
But so she did and as I opened my mailbox a few days later, there I found the print-screens of five pages all scanned under dubious quality but with the characteristic sign of her elegant handwriting, inscribed with the long lines and the smooth curves. If something was to compensate for the blurry letters and the slanted scans that was definitely her handwriting that I found fascinated to watch on its own.
I left the unbound pages of the entry over my desk and never really sat down to read it, until much later in the night, just as the day was coming to its end. I don't know really why I left it for last, as it was obvious to me that I wanted nothing more than to read the whole piece at once and satisfy the insatiable curiosity that was burning in me with uttering flames. For the whole afternoon I would go about my business, often looking at the pages from a distance as something magical that could assert some sort of power over me and I doubt if I really got my brain to think straight for I was dying to finally go through it and get over it once and for all.
I guess what really happened was that I was too attached to it to go through it, the same way we do not want to finish a game we love to play because then we are going to lack the excitement from engaging with it. It's a sort of an oxymoron that sometimes, following through the thing we love the most we are bound to come around full circle and release it from our lives for something else to take its place.
Eventually, I sat down at the table and I remember I never took a pause through the whole thing as I read it start to finish all at once, from the moment I put my mind to it. The piece followed her day about a month ago when she visited some relatives somewhere in the rural parts of the country where she got to spend the day with her two cousins, Kelly and Ryan, and their family elders.
There is been a long time since I last read the piece, and unfortunately, many details are obscured naturally through the passage of time, but I do remember fully well how vigorously she described the route towards their dwelling with the tall sycamore trees and the cute squirrels she would notice along the way. As a matter of fact, there was a reference about every single animal she would meet, including the chickens roaming through their barnyard, and the horses under the red stable. They were all written with the care and devotion of someone who loved every part of it and the characteristic aesthetic eye that Stella would often use to look at the world. The descriptions were long and detailed talking about the "silver fluff of the horses under the blazing sun" and the "fuzzy sense of their touch". She would talk about the way the wind would blow, and the smell of nature in the high countryside, where you can see the "undulating outlines of the hills" and witness the "most magnificent purple sunset in the world".
It was only after the second page that she delved into her relatives and I remember vividly how she would keep an idealized version of everyone, seeing mostly the best of them and projecting a character that left the impression that she was accentuating their good parts over the bad ones. I'm not sure if that was part of an exercise she was making as part of our literature course or if she really thought about them in such a way, but you would get the impression that everybody was dressed in the clothes of perfection and little can be said to describe the lovely life they were living down to their little farm.
She narrated the day in a very detailed fashion from the moment she arrived at the very end, with all the intricate details that made you feel as if you were part of their company. She jotted down the un-funny dad jokes that uncle Brian would torture his kids with, and the butternut cookies of her aunt that were literally melting inside the mouth before you had a chance to really chew on them. Their day was full and intriguing taking activities like riding the horses, throwing axes over targets -this one she didn't like so much in particular- and taste some of their local grapes and apples that had a fixture she had never found in anything else before.
Though the whole narration was interesting on its own, there were two things that grabbed my attention to the foolest and that made the biggest impression on me for spotting them in a piece like that. One was that at some point she actually mentioned me, in an episode that reminded her of something I had said. During their lunch, and as they went through the delicious food that was filling a full two-fold table with a vast range of choices --a habit that is especially imprinted in such rural cultures-- Brian leaped up his glass in a sudden erosion of spirit and made a toast that made her quite an impression.
"May you always find the wisdom to enjoy the little things in life like our little gathering here," he said. "Because in such moments lie the key to true happiness."
And in that little notion, she interjected my name by referring to the way this toast reminded her of what I always used to say.
"Is it really me or did that sounded exactly like Andrew," she wrote, "And his obsession about small details."
I would never consider myself "obsessed" with details in any way and any person that knows me would vow for being the laziest person alive on earth. Yet through the assignments that we would many times apply together, I would often re-iterate through the piece again and again even when the need for it would seem to be insignificant, but I was happy that she remembered me for such inclination, and certainly, it wasn't the worst trait to be called upon.
The second thing that impressed me in the journal, was lying at the very end of the piece in the section where all the conclusions were coming together and the sweet summary was taking the initiative. Stella finished it off not when the day ended, taking the road back home but with a final assessment that revealed many things about her that I didn't know and would never cross my mind if I wasn't to read them.
"Maybe the small details matter not only because they add up to something greater," she said, "but they are the big things all by themselves. A morning smile counts more than a casket of money and a few family moments can go all the way into a perfect childhood memory. Maybe I should never have gone, but then again, if I hadn't I would never have known what it was like to march with an open heart again. And for that, I'm deeply grateful."
It had long troubled me what she meant with her last paragraph. And in all the following days that we met, I never found the courage to ask her what she meant by it. Maybe her previous life wasn't always the blithe dream people would imagine her to have. And probably what was lying deep down in her mind, she never let out to anyone to see. She left town the year she graduated, and since then I never had the chance to meet her again or ask her about her doings. But when I think of her I always imagine that she somehow found the way to unleash whatever it was that was troubling her, and that she discovered all the small things she was looking for and that could offer her the kind of happiness she was looking for.