The other side

I was going through my bookshelves the other day, trying to make space. I weeded out of bunch of books to donate: novels I'll never read again, academic texts that will be better loved on university library shelves. It's getting easier to give away books — I console myself with the idea that they're still mine, just on other people's shelves. I like to think that maybe someone will read a book that would've otherwise died a lonely death on my shelf and maybe it will make that person's life a little bit different. In a good way.

And then I found this on the floor after my purge:


It's a vintage label from a Vaseline jar. It must've been used as a bookmark. When I picked it up and turned it over, this is what was on the back:


That's my mother's handwriting. She used to do that: doodle little shapes and connecting lines. I started to do that too, to copy her, and now it's my own habit. She was obviously writing down a telephone number, likely taking it down from a friend on the telephone, writing it over and over. The number 71 in the bottom left-hand corner: that's the year I was born. Could the Vaseline have been from my babyhood? My brother’s?

Do you dare me to call that phone number? I won't, but it's fun to contemplate.

I'm not so macabre and inconsolable these days. Now, I come across these physical scraps of my mom, tiny things that she touched, and I'm far enough past grief to be rather chuffed about them, to grin rather than gasp. I've no idea which book this fell out of, and now that the books have already been dropped off to their new homes, I never will. But somehow, this scrap of paper wormed its way out to find me: a little hello, a reminder from the other side.

Do you dare me to call the phone number? If this were a novel, I would, and it would be the beginning of some great adventure, some passionate romance. But it's just a bookmark, holding space in a story that simultaneously finished much too soon and still never quite ends.