I have a little tiny black book. It was given to me a few years ago with very specific instructions. The book holds my life story up until this point, blank pages past the words representing the days to come. A kind gift, I thought. To see your whole life story, word for word, thought for thought, written out for you is truly something special. You never have to worry about forgetfulness or memories fading. If I want to flip through my best days, I can. If I want to fixate on my worst days, I can.
Once, I was in a relationship that wasn’t so satisfying. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t great. I wanted to end it, but I didn’t know how. I’ve always had a flair for the dramatic, so I went back through and highlighted every small slight, every misstep, from the awkward stutters of the getting-to-know-you-s to the real grievances that happen when a person is working out how to be with another person. I highlighted and cited and inflated every little word just because I had it on hand. I went out with a bang on that relationship. And now that is part of the story too.
Of course, the best part of having this book is the editing. When I got it, it came with a fancy little pen with which I could cross out what happened and rewrite it how I wanted it and that would be the way it happened. With a quick line, I could rewrite history, my history. And I did. Often, as many wish to do. I would trip at the grocery store and then quickly scratch it away like it never happened. When I went to the movies and the employees said, “enjoy the show,” and I replied, “you too,” I could make it go away. I never had to be embarrassed because I could make it all go away.
But of course, it didn’t really go away. It was there, under the scratch marks, and it was there in the words that represented my thoughts rather than my actions; thoughts of how I should change my story. Yet it went away in reality, and that was what mattered most at the time. The worst was when I did something wrong. Something really, truly wrong. Once, I spent weeks manipulating a friend with my book, just to see if I could. Rewriting moment, after moment, after moment. When they found out, they were furious. So, I removed the time when they found out, but they found out again, so I removed it again, and they found out again. I realized there was no way I could change it so they wouldn’t. So, I sat down and crossed out all those weeks, word by word. I rewrote them, carefully, and in the end, we were friends again and they were none the wiser. At least two months, completely crossed out, rethought and rewritten. It was my favorite hobby.
It was all in good fun, an ultimate power I could use and abuse and enjoy as I wished. In a few years, I got bored. Life loses its flavor when nothing is permanent and everything can be changed to your whim. A few years later, I realized my mistake, the one mistake I could not just cross out and rewrite. I only had so many pages. If I lived a second, thought to cross it out, crossed it out, thought how to change it, and wrote out that change, that was five seconds written and only one truly lived, and a flawed one at that, one that no longer existed. I was living a fifth of a life, and that fifth was a false one. Imagine how many more seconds were spent debating changes that were never made, or trying to remember the ones that were, or flipping through pages, rereading the past—each second of that written again, taken again from my finite future, only to be crossed out and rewritten and crossed out and rewritten as the pages ahead got shorter and shorter. Imagine how many seconds, how many pages were spent considering this waste of pages, and how many more were spent considering it enough to put it into the words I am writing here in these, my final pages.