Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A notebook

There is an apartment building in the old part of the city; decades of grime and car exhaust have darkened the beige walls and its windows are frosted with dust and filth. One side - the side open to the parking lot - is covered with overlapping layers of graffiti tags.

On the ninth floor of the building, on the northeast corner, one apartment looks out over the street with a view of the Asian market, the fire station, the defunct video shop with its doors sealed shut by rock show posters. The windows of the corner room are cleaner than all the others, inside and out. The room itself sees frequent use, although it is almost bare: one battered couch, a small end table that supports a dingy lamp, and a desk and chair that sits in the middle of the room with another lamp placed in the back center of the desktop. The desk is an old metal affair, recovered from a postal office that was being shut down. On either side of the knee space are two large and one small drawers; a wide, flat drawer above the knee space.

In the center drawer there is a notebook. It is a handmade notebook, the paper made by a man who sells his product at craft fairs; the binding is made by a friend of the papermaker. It is soft brown leather, thick and warped. The spine is held together by thick leather lacing and the notebook is held shut by another piece of lacing wrapped around a bronze button that bears a decorative image of a bear.

The first seven pages of the notebook are filled with writing of no consequence: a failed attempt at keeping a journal by the notebook's first owner. It is the writing on the fiftieth page of the notebook - exactly halfway through the book's hundred pages - that people will commit murder to see. It is the information on that page that will change the direction of history.

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