The Ragged Book
by Gregory L. Towns
As a child, like most children, I was very curious. Old folks said that “boys are so nosey, it will get me in trouble some day”. This label has followed me most of my life. As a writer I seek fact over fiction, truth over rumors, and justice over injustice. My curiosity has benefited me for most of my lifetime. Now that I’m in the autumn of my life, I traveled to my birthplace to renew old friendships and be close to family. The elders of my youth are gone, but leave a firm foundation that will live for generations.
I was going through an old trunk recently and found a frayed tattered book that I started to put aside looking for something more valuable or of some sentimental value and my eye focused on the edge of the book and it read, “Book of Life”. To my amazement I was filled with a sudden peace and a tranquil feeling came over me. I took the book and rushed to a quiet place to be alone with it and proceed to open it. On the front page was a dedication. It was to one of the most special people in my life, “my grandmother”. It read to Miss Lennie Sims” from: no one significant. The next page was a list of names, some I had never head of, some I knew. There were dates of birth; there were dates of death. I read on and on until I cam upon my name. My birthdate, yes, my death, but no date. I was astounded and a little frightened but I read on because with every death, there was a cause. After my death, the cause was “Heartbreak”.
Shocked and a bit confused I read on for some sort of clarification. The pages were worn and brittle, they had the musty mildew smell of age. The following pages gave no indication of the books age but told of major events through the years past weddings, again births, deaths, illnesses, going and comings, sadness and happiness, addresses and dates of importance. Between these pages were even a certificate of ownership of some who were once slaves, along with ornate papers of a hard found freedom. There was also deeds to property, automobile registrations as far back as there had been autos. Receipts for just about everything-diplomas and report cards, letters of love and appreciation cards for birthdays, mother’s day, anniversaries and Christmas. There were pictures galore-some old and faded, one of a particularly handsome young fellow in a US Calvary uniform. Several of babies young people and cars-lots of school graduates and military pictures from wars, past and present. Memories were abundant; a life of dreams and memories in the folds of this tattered little book. Faded, but not forgotten.
Gently I turn the pages to reveal the content and page which had become illegible and there I found a small slip of paper, also faded with frayed edges. As I unfolded it, I could barely read the information, it said: On this day in 1913 Calvin Ingram, 18 years old, applied for and was granted a license to marry Lennie Sims, age 13, and was charged $1.00 for the privilege.
After surveying these treasures I return to the section of births and deaths to again find my name and the cause of my demise with a morbid curiosity. You could see I’ve been unlucky in love lately. It seems that love so fleeting has escaped me. I tell all that I am in love with being in love, my heart focuses on the fantasies of that perfect love. Committed to one for a lifetime. Someone to care for, to dream with and about, someone to share the visions of life.
After so many vain and unsuccessful attempts at love I resolved myself to my memories of the good in each of my losses. Those days and moments before the heartbreak, I remembered the smiles, the laughter, the walks in the rain, lazy afternoons in the sun, cold evenings in front of the fire, a glance or word that made us both feel as one. The feeling of protection and safety, I thought about tears that made me feel sad and guilty.
Then without reason, I remembered the breakup, everytime for all the wrong reasons. How I justified my innocence with some flimsy excuse. Only after I reaccount the issue, do I find that you were as much to blame, and I ask, Why I am beating up on myself. Then the depression sets in and I never look up from the ground or into a mirror because I’m discussed with myself. I want to put this worn out little book down, but strangely enough it holds some comfort. A soothing, satisfied feeling. Hard to explain at this point, push my reading glasses up close to my eyes and proceed cautiously.
Dreading what fate has for me in these torn pages, I find a page missing. What mysteries did it hold. Fear grips me at this point. A fear like none I’ve ever known. Deep in my heart, I feel cold and everything becomes dark. Where is this strange little book taking me, I ask? Why am I left with so many questions about my life my future and myself. Why is my past marked with such loss and sorrow. Is my heart destined to be closed and unpenetratable? Will I be forever alone? All these questions race in my head. I’m overwhelmed and consumed as I turn to the next page and read.
“In the beginning God created heaven and earth,” to follow the answers to all my questions. Relief for all my fears. Strength for all my infirmities.