Friday, October 14, 2011

The Yellow Book

I keep journals. It all started innocently enough, when the sudden shock of going to boarding school while yet a senior primary ignoramus (pun intended) sent me on an adventure into myself. Today there's a wide variety of my old, filled-up journals, editions of which are scattered in the many places I've called home since senior primary, including this here blog.

One day I sat at a corner I like to call The Office and started sorting out things to burn later. You can bet that when you finish university, no one will have any use for your written and drawn in class notebooks nor your abortive schemes for world domination. So I was going to burn them. In the course of sorting the chaff from the wheat I came across The Yellow Book. It is a very old journal, which I started writing before I joined university.

The best thing about going through old journals is the opportunity to look back in awe or utter shock depending on how well thought out or shallow your views were back then. Then you can say "I know better now" or "I'm growing backwards mentally." In many ways, new realizations arise from looking at old things with new eyes. Most importantly, back when I wrote, I had absolutely no idea what would become of me afterwards.

As I sat at the Office, The Yellow Book exposed a lot of my naïveté and inexperience of back in the day. Plus a whole ton of idealism which, alas, I seem to have lost. Innocence is priceless I say. If impractical youths were given mikes they could do standup comedy without breaking a sweat. My ears were getting hot as I read the commitments I and a certain girl had made to each other, implicit though they were. Many pages on, I had started nicknaming her The Ex, believing I would only ever have one ex in my whole life. And if things went well, she wouldn't be an ex for very long. The Yellow Book made it very obvious that I really liked that girl. It was written by a younger me, who hadn't learnt to erect walls of pride and exclusion.

Before long the stupid book started working on my tender nerves, such that I forgot that I had taken a principled stance against love in more recent times. (That stance is elaborated here.) Suddenly, I caught myself exclaiming "What happened to you!"

Man up! exclaimed the alter ego, and I determined to burn the damn book, along with the unflattering marked exam scripts and brain-deadening class notes, but only as soon as I finished reading it. So I flipped through it some more.

Suddenly, a card I had never seen before fell out of The Yellow Book. The handwriting on it belonged to The Ex. She was apologizing, in unequivocal terms, for burning my drawing book. That was the main offense for which we had broken up.

The note could only have been three years old plus, and I was finding it for the first time! I was also bothered that she'd apparently read The Yellow Book (she signed off on the apology as "The Ex," complete with stinging quotation marks.) If she had read The Yellow Book in its entirety, and decided, on the back of information thus gleaned, to write me an apology, then I had real cause for some sort of embarrassment, even if the reaction was overdue by three years. 

major crisis scenario

Three years is a long time not to know that an apology even exists for something that you've been carrying the torch for. It would be polite to acknowledge receipt of it. I temporarily allowed myself to forget that nostalgia has been the undoing of many a youth. I couldn't help thinking, what if I had discovered the note on time? What could have been? The real question was: what if upon joining university I had not turned my back on the Yellow Book?

We'll never know.

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