I used to meet a friend every Friday afternoon in our favorite weathered coffee shop, where we would proceed to place the same order (a tall decaf and a grande mocha with two sugars) and take the same seat by the tall windows near the door. We would sip slowly and stare out at the sidewalk, making comments about the various fashions and breeds of dogs passing by. We’d comment on the upcoming elections, the rapidly changing weather patterns, and the scandals written in the statuses popping up on our Facebook timelines. We’d reminisce about freshman year of college, when we made friends with the boys in the room next door and spent Saturday nights on their couch until 3 AM, got endlessly lost trying to decipher the subways of New York City, and traversed to New Jersey one night just to go to a grocery store.
The long-winded conversations would always lead to books: What did you read as a child? The Rainbow Fish, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, anything with an animal and an adjective to precede its name. What was the first book you remember loving? Lady and the Tramp; the spaghetti scene got to me even when I was four years old. When were you first exposed to Harry Potter? Sixth grade, after a teacher let us listen on audio tape. When we didn’t finish the Sorcerer’s Stone by June, I begged her to let me keep my copy. What are you reading now? Catch-22, Joseph Heller, because the title directly relates to how my current life feels.
And then one rainy Friday afternoon, with the same drink order and same table, staring out the same windows at the same streets, a different question: What would be in a book titled for you?
I remember the silence that followed being one of the longest I’d ever endured. Precipitation spattered on each window pane, watercolor paintings seeping together. Pedestrians dodged individual drops, umbrellas abandoned on the corner when their frames could not withstand the wind any longer. Cabs caused tidal waves of gutter puddles that broke at the curb and dissolved as fast as they’d crested.
But the answer was one simple word: “Everything.”
Pressed orange flowers. Concert ticket stubs. A personalized soundtrack. Photo collages with lace at the edges. The bow I wore in my hair for a week straight in 2nd grade. Letters from Santa Claus, penned in my mother’s handwriting. A copy of “Sara” by Starship on vinyl. Rugged cowboy boots. Handwritten notes, all from one year of high school. A famous verse from Psalms. A stuffed version of Paddington Bear. Hospital bracelets. The first photo of me in the newspaper. Macaroni angel Christmas tree ornaments. Stick-on earrings. A stamped passport. Handmade dresses with pinafore fronts, released from their garment bags in my attic. Smudged charcoal drawings. A hand knit sweater. A blue and gold graduation tassel.
Pages and pages of treasured items, strung into words, sentences, stories. Pages and pages of the objects that speak volumes to my life. Every little anecdote written out in letters and syllables to be spell checked by an editor in a plush office.
But some pages would be left blank; sometimes silence speaks volumes to certain parts of our life.