The Moleskine

Her handwriting was like a man’s.  The letters were tall and sloped with the rigid authority of an upstanding official.  Her “G” and “F” dipped down so low that they stabbed at the words below them with their sharp tails. Her lower-case “E”’s were so concise and narrow that they often did not look like “E’s” at all but like a small single line that jutted up in the middle of the word rudely and misunderstood.

He leaned forward onto the balls of his feet and anxiously looked over at her table.  Her back was turned away from him and all he could see was the sloppy page of her Moleskine journal.  Its creamy blank pages became increasingly blemished as her pen scratched over them at an alarming rate.

It was two o’clock on a Thursday afternoon and they were the only two people in the café.  Every normal person was back at work; the café had recently purged itself of the lunch crowd.  The plain faced girl behind the counter with the short mousey hair was pouring more coffee into a filter, her shoulders finally relaxing after a stressful three hour rush.

Adam glanced again at the form of the girl sitting in front of him; she seemed oblivious to the atmosphere around her. She didn’t seem to notice the quiet of the café or the actions of the girl who worked there.   His eyes scanned up and down her back and relished at the form of her breast curving outwards beneath her arm pit. He decided he would get up and buy another cup of coffee so that he could look at her face, but just before he could she stood up.

Her hair shielded her face as she struggled to put the Moleskine underneath the flap into her messenger bag. The latch was stuck and she looked up at the clock.

“Shit!” she exclaimed and rushed out of the door while simultaneously pushing the Moleskine under the flap. She missed and the journal fell to the floor. She didn’t notice it fall as she left the café.

Adam bounded up from his seat and reached down to grab the journal. He felt the leather warm and content in his hand.   The binding was worn from constant use and there was a permanent indent in the cover where Adam supposed her fingers had held the journal with passion and inspiration—or pure hate at whomever she was writing about.

He moved too slowly out the door in his pursuit of the girl. It was obvious to the counter girl (who watched his movements with the same amount of interest an aquarium fish might) that he didn’t really want to catch the girl.  He didn’t want to surrender the Moleskine too quickly. It had after all been the focus of his attention for the last half-hour.

Adam rushed out onto the sidewalk and looked around him, but the girl was no where in sight.  Of course the more Adam looked; the more he realized that he could no longer remember what the girl looked like. All he could remember was the shape of her breasts and the veins in her pale hand.

The counter girl pretended to not notice him when Adam came back into the café. He sighed heavily and opened the journal.

On the first page, where the Moleskine company had printed the words: “In case of loss, please return to…” She had filled in:

“Keep it. Read it. Love it.”

She had drawn a red heart next to the word “love it”.  The heart seemed so out of place next to the harsh handwriting that Adam could not help but smile. Perhaps she was just a normal girl with a normal diary and all he would find inside the pages would be love letters to celebrities.  Either way, Adam needed to have some fun—so he decided that he would obey the girl’s orders and keep and read the journal.

He brought his dirty coffee cup up to the counter girl who said “thank you,” faintly. Then he gathered up the rest of his stuff and headed out the door.

It was early spring and the street was black with dampness. It had rained hard that morning, but at around lunch time the sun had broken through the clouds like a cliché.   Garbage piled up in the gutters and against the buildings from where the snow banks had melted.  There was nothing beautiful about early spring other than the promise it held of better things to come. Adam shivered inside of his jacket. It was barely fifty out—usually undesirable walking weather. Yet after such a brutal, cold winter Adam would have walked through a rainstorm and consider it pleasant. It was a long walk back to his apartment but Adam liked the walk.  The neighborhood he lived in was full of dilapidated houses that had been turned into apartments and was populated by drunken college students.   Whenever he walked out of his neighborhood and towards the more sophisticated side of town, he felt like he was walking out of the looking glass and back into the normal world.

It was quiet in his apartment. The other people who lived in the house were probably off at class or sleeping. He didn’t bother to turn on the lights as he walked into the circular room that served as a kitchen, living room, and bedroom. It was small but for four hundred dollars a month Adam knew he couldn’t do any better. He was working full time at clothing store in the mall. He hoped to make manager one day.  Other than that he was forced to find pleasure in his walks and in those quiet Thursday afternoons spent at the coffee shop; and now with this—the journal.

The leather had cooled from the walk but already the shape of the journal began to form to his hand. It had accepted him without obligation. It did not care that he was a high-school graduate who had never done anything with his life.  His parents and his friends always kept telling him that he needed to move on, that he needed to grow up. That he had no future. Adam didn’t like to think about the future, not because the future in itself wasn’t particularly pleasant to think about, he just found the present more interesting.  He couldn’t understand people whose constant state of mind existed in the lives that they planned on living six weeks, six months, or six years away from their current lives. It seemed as if they were cheating themselves out of living. All that Adam knew was that he was perfectly content with how his life was going. He had is rituals and his job. If being content with not wanting more made him a failure, than Adam would accept that. The journal did not mind. All it seemed to care about was that he didn’t throw it in the trash somewhere.

Read me—it seemed to whisper. The blankness of the cover blinked at him with empty eyes.  He couldn’t help but see a face in the inanimate object. He had been seeing faces in inanimate objects since he was a kid.  He sat down on his bed and opened the cover. He flipped quickly past the “If lost…” page and opened up to the first creamy expanse of paper that had been corrupted by the girl’s harsh writing.

There, she had written, in those angry offending letters,

This morning the bright sun is streaking through my blinds giving the illusion of warmth, but I know its freezing cold outside. Yesterday I hibernated in bed reading Jane Eyre with the heaters on and didn’t go to my night class—I didn’t do anything else either.  All afternoon and all night spent dreaming.

Then, this morning I opened a window in order to air out the apartment after having kicked up a lot of dust cleaning and the flakes flying through the sky were so tiny and silver that I thought they were falling stardust. A few flakes landed on my grandmother’s music box.

Adam closed his eyes and saw a white light, snow flying outside of a bedroom window; glimmering in the sunlight.

He turned the page:

You made a mistake once, in thinking I was one of those girls who would so easily give her heart to something just because it had a collection of hearts.

I am not like the other girls. When you hear me speak, all you hear is confusion. Yet in my heart, written words are creating art. It is all a matter of analog—and I am remixing your system. No. I cannot be like the other girls.  All my data is corrupted.

And on the next:

What I Love About My Body:

My tiny, round breasts

The color of my eyes

How fast my hair grows

The size of my waist

My scars and the stories they tell

The fact that I take forever to cum

The way my body dances, spinning gracefully…

Adam read late into the night—he read poems about poetry, he read prayers to the gods of sex, and fairy tales about laughing moons. He learned about her fears (travel), and about her dreams (motherhood), and he knew that whenever she was sad she would read Rumi:

Poles apart, I’m the color of dying, you’re the color

Of being born. Unless we breathe in each other,

There can be no garden.

So, that’s why plants grow and laugh at our eyes,

Which focus on distance.


As the sun finally rose on Friday, Adam had realized that he indeed had begun to love the journal.  But there was one command he could not follow. He could not keep it. He had to find her.

The next Thursday afternoon was cold. Adam bundled up in a thick coat and rode the bus out towards the café. He walked in and found the place completely empty except for the counter girl with the short mousey hair.  The weather seemed to have scared most of the customers away.  Adam’s heart sank to see that the girl with the journal had not come back. He went up to the counter.

“Excuse me…:

“Hi!” The girl said. The emphasis in her voice told him that she remembered him. She put down the coffee mug that she was cleaning and walked up towards the register. “What can I do for you?”

“I was actually wondering if you might remember a girl who was in here at the same time I was last Thursday?”

“The girl whose journal you stole?”

“I didn’t steal it!” Adam exclaimed defensively, he laid a protective hand over his messenger bag where the journal resided. “I tried to catch up with her but was unable to, and now I’m just trying to find her so that I can return it to her.”

“You’re going through a lot of effort,” the girl said sarcastically. “Any normal person would have just given the journal to me in case its owner called the cafe.”

“Listen,” Adam huffed, annoyed—“have you seen the girl or not?”

“I’m sorry, but no.” She smiled with sympathy.

He grabbed one of the café’s business cards that were displayed by the register and began to write on the back of it.

“Well here is my number, if she comes in—try to get her name and stuff and then call me.”

“Wow.” She said, looking down at the card with a sad smile.


“That has to be the most unflattering way a guy has ever given me his phone number.” She faked a laugh and then said, “Do you at least want my name?”

The look he gave her was intense. “Yeah actually, I do.”

“I’m Melanie.”

He put out his hand, “Adam”.

She shook it weakly. “Nice to meet you I guess.”

Adam studied her face carefully. She didn’t look as plain as he thought on first impression.  Her eyes were a sharp, rare green that from up close caused the rest of her face to transform into something beautiful.   She had a slightly upturned nose and a light sprinkling of freckles across her cheeks.  Melanie caught Adam staring at her and smiled shyly, her lips together and her mouth curling upwards created dimples in her cheeks.   With the freckles and the short hair (which she had mussed sloppily that morning), the girl looked elf-like.

“While I’m here, I guess I’ll take a coffee.”

Melanie blushed and turned towards the shelf of coffee mugs. “Shit!” She exclaimed.

Adam looked up at her.

“I need to brew more coffee.  Just have a seat; I’ll bring it to you once it’s done.”

“Alright,” Adam said. “Do you have any paper I can borrow?”

Wordlessly, Melanie disappeared into a back room and returned a moment later with a piece of blank printer paper.  Adam took it and walked over to one of the empty tables. He sat down and wrote on the paper:

The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing’

How blind that was.

Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.

They’re in each other all along.

“Rumi! Nice!” He heard a voice and looked up to see Melanie standing over him with a mug of coffee in her hand.  “That’s one of my favorites—“

“Apparently it is one of hers too.” Adam replied.

“The girl with the journal? You read it?” Melanie placed the mug of coffee on the table and stared at him.

“Well I was kind of just following directions.” Adam reached down and pulled the Moleskine out of his backpack. He opened it to the first page where it said “Keep it. Read it. Love it,” and showed it to her.

Melanie huffed. “That is so typical.”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s this group on flickr dedicated to moleskin art and this girl had written ‘Keep it. Read it. Love it,’ on the inside cover, just like that, and posted a picture of it.  Now every unoriginal girl with a journal is doing the exact same thing.”

“Well, how do you know this isn’t the original journal?”

“The handwriting,” without being invited, she suddenly fell down into the seat across from Adam and sighed in contentment. “The girl who wrote the original journal had actually taken a penmanship class.”

A ball of disappointment began to bounce up and down in Adam’s chest, but he refused to let Melanie see it.  She didn’t seem to notice the sudden silence.

“How do you know this stuff?” he asked her.

“Well, I’m kind of an internet nerd. I’m everywhere. I have a twitter, a livejournal, a flickr, and a blog…”

Adam huffed, “that is a lot. What is your blog about?”

She shrugged. “Nothing in particular. Just the people I see, the things that I find beautiful; some fashion stuff.  Sometimes I’ll post my poetry.”

Adam wanted to ask her for her blog’s web address, he was curious to read what she wrote. She seemed to him to be a lot like the girl whose journal lay resting in the bag against his leg. He thought it would be weird to ask though.

“How do you find time to do all that?

She shrugged and ducked her head. “Well, I don’t have much going on. Working here is pretty much all I do. And you know what? I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

“We have that in common,” Adam said.

“What do you mean?”

He told her his philosophy about living in the presence, and how he couldn’t ever find someone who understood how he could be so happy living an insignificant (in the opinion of others) life.

“I just enjoy living. I also enjoy not having any commitments.”

“That’s nice.” Melanie said awkwardly.

“Actually, you know what I really want to do?” Adam said, suddenly excited. He leaned close to Melanie so that he could smell the fruity, powdery scent of her perfume. “I want to travel. Right now I’m working a lot of over-time and saving up some extra cash to go to Europe.  You can stay in hostels there for a couple bucks a night!  I don’t need much, just a backpack and a change of clothes. I really want to go to Sweden. I hear it’s one of the happiest places in the world! And Bucharest…”

“Or Istanbul?” Melanie chimed in.

“Yeah.” Adam agreed, “or Fez…:

“Or anywhere in India…”she added.

“Fuck the conventional touristy locations!” Adam exclaimed and they both began to laugh. But when the laughter died down, an awkward silence fell between them.

“So, you really want to find this girl don’t you?” Melanie said.

Adam nodded.

“Do you know anything about her?”

“I know she goes to college, and that she likes to write poetry and read them at open mics.”

Melanie grinned, “That’s great! The university has an open-mic every Thursday night, you should check it out. Maybe she’ll be there.” She tore off a piece of the printer paper and began to scribble down an address.

“Why are you so interested in helping me?” Adam asked.

Melanie laughed and looked up at him; there was a light in her green eyes that wouldn’t stop dancing. “Are you kidding? Look around!” She waved her hands like an excited conductor and indicated the rest of the tiny café.  “This is the most exciting thing that has happened to me in weeks.”

She suddenly jumped up and placed the piece of paper in Adam’s palm and let her touch linger. “I’ll see you around Adam…”

With that she skipped back behind her counter and Adam drained his coffee cup and left.

That night, he walked up to the front door of a coffee shop across the street from campus. It had been one of those strange days that had gotten warmer as the day went on and Adam barely shivered inside his light jacket.

The place was much larger and darker than the small white café where he had found the journal. The walls were all brick and painted with bright graffiti letters.  There were huge red velvet drapes suspended from the ceiling and wooden tables of different heights and sizes spread haphazardly across the floor.  The entire place looked as if someone had decided to set up a café in the middle of their garage and had grabbed every assortment of antique attic furniture that they could find.  In the far back left hand corner of the café, next to a bookshelf and behind half curtain was a slightly raised platform where college students dressed in black were setting up two microphones and two separate sets of amps.

Adam ordered himself a mocha and found a seat far off from the stage, toward the front windows. It was perfect for a single person and had only two chairs.  He slung his bag up onto the extra chair and positioned his chair with the back to the wall, so that he would have a clear view of the door and the entire café—including the stage.

At approximately eight o’clock, a girl with long dark hair and a t-shirt that read “LOVE” in a huge letters walked up to the microphone.

“Can I have everybody’s attention please?”

She waited a few long moments as the buzz in the café began to die down.  Adam was surprised at the turn out. Every single table was occupied and there was a crowd of people standing at the back of the room holding coffees and watching the stage.  Adam looked carefully but he didn’t see any girl that resembled the one who owned the moleskin. It was even more difficult for him because he couldn’t really remember what the girl looked like.  There were a few girls standing around with shoulder length dark hair but there was something in the way that they were standing that told him that they were not who he was looking for. He had spent all day convincing himself that when he saw her, he would know.

The girl at the microphone began to talk again, “Thank you everybody for coming out on this beautiful Thursday night to listen to some amazing poetry and comedy!  We have a great line-up for you tonight featuring poets Terrence Goldberg and Melanie Eliot. Also, popular on-campus comedian and president of the campus improve group—‘Randomness’ Donny Knox is here in order to perform a whole fifteen minute set!”

Upon hearing this, various people around the room began to shout and applaud.

“Let me repeat the rules for you.  Poets get a limit of three short poems or one long, and comedian get only a five-eight minute slot. The sign-up sheet is right here by the stage. Don’t be shy!  You’ll regret not performing tonight.”

Now, without further ado, I give you Terrence Goldberg!”

There was an enthusiastic response from the crowd as a tall thin guy in a fedora took the stage. Adam didn’t listen to what he read though as he scanned the people waiting in line to get coffee and watched the door like a hawk.

After Terrence, comedian Donny Knox did his set.  Some of the stuff he said was good, but it was obvious that he was an amateur comedian and said “fuck” too many times to really be funny. Fifteen-minutes was a long time to have him on stage because his stuff got boring very fast.

Time was crawling and Adam checked his watch impatiently.  He was starting to realize that this was a very stupid idea when he heard a familiar voice.

“Hey everyone! Thanks for inviting me back.”

Melanie was up on stage.  She had run glitter through her short hair and had painted her eyelids with metallic green eye shadow, all of which shimmered under the lights from the stage and emphasized the unusual shape of her face.   Adam looked up at her with interest.

“I only have one new poem for you tonight, but it’s a long one so I guess that is all that’s allowed.  Anyway, this is Dreams

At night,

I dream spirits

Into flight.

And wish a boon

Upon the moon

Thankless and high

In her king size bed—

The sky.

There was more, but Adam wasn’t very good at paying attention to poetry. He watched her intently though, almost mystified by the way she was able to recite the poem from memory and the way that her hands moved wildly and expressively as she worked to weave the poem into being.  He was struck by her confidence, by her strong sense of self, by the way that she could dominate the poem that she had written and stand in front of so many people and just…be herself. It was clear by her expression that her mind did not wander away from the task in hand. She completely existed in the present. This was something that impressed in Adam a new, and unexpected emotion…

As she concluded the poem, she smiled sadly and lowered her hands to rest them gently on her thighs.

She looked down, uncharacteristically shy and waited for the applaud to cease.  When she looked up again, her smile was wide and vibrant and her eyes suddenly met Adam’s.  When she saw him she beamed excitedly and skipped off the stage.

She skipped right up to his table and said, “You actually came!”

“I had to give it a shot.” Adam shrugged his shoulders and took a sip of his mocha. After all this time, it had turned cold.

“You love her,” Melanie teased.


“Miss. Moleskine Plagiarism.”  She picked Adam’s messenger bag off the empty seat and placed it roughly on the table and then perched herself upon the stool.  She reached into her purse and took out a black moleskin journal just like the treasure that Adam kept hidden in his messenger bag.  Melanie had engraved on hers: “Miss Melanie Jane”.

“You know, I didn’t invite you to sit there…” Adam said.

“Oh, you don’t mind.”

They sat in silence for awhile as Adam searched the crowd once again in an exhausted attempt of trying to recognize the girl.  Melanie watched him with interest.

“Do you even know what she looks like?” She finally asked.

He shrugged.

“Here,” she said, “let me help. At least I’ve seen her face.”

Adam didn’t reply but Melanie looked anyway, watching the faces of the people sitting at the mismatched tables and the line of people standing like dogs against the walls.

“Oh my god! There she is!” Melanie pointed at a brunette with shoulder length hair and a green sweater standing against the back wall, talking with Terrence Goldberg.

“Are you sure?” Adam asked. His voice was choked with panic.

“Yeah I’m sure!” She rolled her eyes, “I’m very good at recognizing customers.”

Adam reached into his messenger bag and pulled out the Moleskine. The leather was cool and felt irritable underneath his clammy hand. He looked down at the foreign object: “Alright baby,” he said. “Ready to go home?”

The journal didn’t respond.  He didn’t really expect it to. It stared at him with expressionless eyes and Adam squeezed it tight.

The brunette had her back turned to him.  She had laughed at something that Terrence had said.  She then reached up and laid a hand affectionately on Terrence’s cheek.

Adam felt his blood curdle and his heart shrink.  He tapped her on the shoulder,. “Excuse me?”

The girl turned around to find herself face to face with a black moleskin.  “Is this your journal?”

She looked around the journal to see a gangly, pale boy behind it. “Um, I don’t know…”

She took the journal out of his hand and flipped it open to read the rough, sharp handwriting. “Yeah! This is mine! Where did you find it?”

“At the café on Park Street.” Adam swallowed around the huge lump in his throat and looked up into her face.  Her expression was loose and lopsided, with a thick full mouth and wide eyes. “Listen I read it and…”

“You read my journal!” Her expression had suddenly twisted into one of anger.

“Well, I…” Adam stuttered.

“I can’t believe you did that! You creep!”

“I’m sorry!” he exclaimed. “The inside said to…”

She flipped roughly through the journal’s pages to turn back to the front page, where she had written “Keep it. Read it. Love it.”  She was so violent with the journal that she ripped some of the pages and Adam winced at the sound of the paper tearing. The voice of the journal sounded in Adam’s head, whimpering under the harsh treatment; crying softly.  Adam reached out a hand and laid it on the journal, stopping her from flipping through it anymore.

“Are you sure it’s even yours?” he said.

“Of course I know it’s mine,” she replied. “I think I’d know my own journal.”

She wasn’t nearly as pretty as Adam had imagined her. In fact, she wasn’t pretty at all. Her skin was red and uneven and acne was broken out over her cheeks.  There was no luster to her hair, and her large mouth seemed to be permanently screwed to the left side in a scowl that resembled Molly Ringwald’s.

“Well it’s just…” Adam protested, “you’re not being very nice to it.”

She huffed and held the journal out towards him. “Here, you might as well keep it,” she said. “I don’t want it now. The fact that you read it really creeps me out.”

The blood in Adam’s face was draining. He felt angry. “Why’d you write that in the beginning then if you didn’t want anyone to read it?”

She shrugged. “I don’t know. I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.”

He reached forward and snatched the journal out of her hand. “Well I did,” he said. “I took the whole journal seriously.”

“This is too fucking creepy.  Get away from me.” The girl pushed past him and out the door.  He watched her go as the remaining blood in his face slowly began to flow away. She looked back at him with one last look of disdain.

Adam looked over to where Melanie sat at his table and saw that she was laughing hysterically.  He walked over to her and placed the journal down onto the table.

“Shut up,” he said with an embarrassed grin.

Melanie closed her mouth, but she was still smiling—“I didn’t say anything!”

“You’re saying ‘I told you so’ with your eyes.”

“Oh, so you think you know me well enough to understand what my eyes are saying do you?”

Adam sat next to her at the table, but looked away.

Melanie peered over at him, “So, what lesson have you learned tonight? Don’t judge a book by the inside cover?”

Adam smiled at her and sighed. “Don’t judge a book before reading the whole story,” he replied.

Melanie gave him a friendly pat on the shoulder “Don’t worry buddy. At least you got to have an adventure.”

Adam stared into her face for a moment and saw her wink a green eye. He pointed at the black Moleskine journal that lay in front of her. “So,” he said. “Can I read it?”

Melanie shook her head. “Not in your life!”

She saw him blush and bite his lip, “I’m sorry,” he said. “I was just joking.”

Melanie stopped smiling for a moment and studied Adam’s face. He had a full mouth and an awkward smile.  Without thinking, she reached up and touched his dark hair. “So what are you going to do with the journal?”

“I think I’m going to keep it.” Adam said.

She gaped, “and what are you going to do with it?”

He smiled at her, “don’t look so freaked out. I’m going to write in it.  I know it’s hard to explain, but I feel kind of attached to this journal. Besides, my handwriting is not that much different from that girl’s.”

“Do you plan on writing bad, girly poetry as well?”

“No. I plan on writing about my travels.” Suddenly, he reached forward and laid his hand on top of Melanie’s.  She jerked a little from the surprise of his touch, but she did not remove her hand.

“Besides,” Adam said. “I was thinking that if you and I pooled our money, we’d be all set to head off to Eastern-Europe and become victims in a Quentin Taratino movie.”


Adam laughed and then exclaimed, “Exactly! Hostel!”

He yelled out “hostel” so loudly that the poet up on stage had to pause for a moment and several people turned to look at them.

Melanie started to giggle when she saw the annoyed faces gazing at them. “Alright. I’m game. When do you want to leave on this deadly vacation?”

Adam gave her hand a tight squeeze. “There is no time like the present.”

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