Free Tote

This morning I’m obsessed with finding a bag. Not just any bag, a brown khaki tote. It was a free tote. The kind you get when you order a magazine subscription because you think your life has finally reached the point that you can lazily read a magazine on your front porch, while you sip your Saturday coffee, rocking back and forth to the lull of the birds in the magnolias. You think you’ve reached a point in your life that you’ll promptly read each issue, delivered every week, by a friendly mail carrier whose suspicion of your growing magazine consumption comes in pitiful glances, as he taps on your glass door and waves the next issue into your box. It’s a pity you’ve steadily learned to tolerate.

I am looking for a tote that came free with a magazine subscription. The kind of subscription you order because you think your life has come to a point that you will be able to read each issue promptly. That the issues won’t start to stack, in tedious, yellowing piles, at the corner of your bedside table. You think you’ve finally reached a point in your life that you will not, at three a.m., grope for the cup of water on your bedside table, and knock the tedious stack of yellowing, unread issues off your bedside table. You think you are so much in control of your life, that you won’t curse at the dropped issues, or at the missing cup of water, or at the person groping in the dark. You think you are so in control of your life, that you won’t feverishly toss and turn for the rest of the night, wondering why the hell you kept a tedious stack of unread, yellowing issues of a magazine on your bedside table. Was it all for the free tote?

This morning I am looking for a free tote that came with a magazine subscription. But it’s not actually the tote that I need. It’s the notebook inside the tote. I had it at the hotel we lived in for a few days at the end of last month. We lived at a hotel for a few days at the end of last month, because we were moving. We were moving from a city that I love dearly, to one the I dread with a maturing certainty more and more each day. We were moving and the boxes had been stacked around our small house. And the truck had been ordered. And the bedside table had been turned upside down. And the magazines stacks had been recycled. And the water cups had been packed. And like you do, when all of your belongings are packed away in boxes and all your magazines recycled, we moved into a hotel for a few days.

It’s not even the notebook inside the free tote that I need. It’s the hastily hand-written quote inside of the notebook that I’m after. It’s my own writing. Half cursive, half capitals. Halfway through the notebook. It’s written past pages of to-do lists, bad middle-of-the-night-ideas, and important phone numbers I forgot to remember. It’s the sort of notebook people like us keep. The sort of people who think we’re so in control of our lives that we order magazine subscriptions, and keep notebooks filled with dots rather than lines. Notebooks filled with middle-of-the-night ideas and phone numbers and to-do lists. Notebooks with doodles and desires. Notebooks with words we can’t quite grasp and thoughts we have to think on for a little while longer. Notebooks with dots rather than lines.

There, inside the notebook, is a quote I jotted down, in somewhat of a fever, at a writing thing I went to a few weeks back. I don’t remember the quote in its entirety. I don’t remember what the teacher said the quote was about, or who the quote was from, or if the quote is even the quote I’m loosely remembering right now. But I do remember the feeling of urgency to get the quote into my dotted notebook. I remember the desire to lock the quote up inside. The weight of that moment pressing down on me. Wanting, needing, to know more about it. I remember thinking this quote could give me some direction. This quote had the power to save me in some way. That one day I would need a quote to save me. That one day soon, I would need saving.

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