The book has been working at my desk, which means it looks as though I have been burgled.
‘I can’t find anything!’ I say. ‘Not even my notes!’
‘It’s not like you were using them,’ the book replies. ‘They’re where you left them by the way, on the shelf behind you.’
I shunt my chair backwards and swivel round to face my shelves. Sure enough, the notebooks are still there, in a line, ordered by date.
One of them has caught my eye, or rather, my memory. Something about sitting on a train copying tracts of writing about writing. The train is not mentioned.
I can see the book from which the quotes came, the train carriage, the friend I was with, everything. But these are not what stops me in my tracks.
I read: ‘When suffering knocks at your door and you say there is no seat he tells you not to worry because he has brought his own seat.’ Chinua Achebe.
And then this, from Theodore Roethke: ‘Art is the means we have of undoing the damage of haste. It’s what everything else isn’t.’
I spin round round to where the book is sitting, its feet up on the desk behind me. ‘Did you know about this?’
The book pretends not to hear me. ‘I’m sorry?’
‘This. These quotes. In this.’ I wave the notebook in the air between us. ‘Make yourself at home by the way.’
‘To be honest with you,’ the book begins, ‘I have absolutely no idea.’ There is a silence. ‘Honestly.’
‘I don’t believe you. This could be useful.’ Unmoved, the book has started to pick its nose. ‘Useful,’ I say again.
‘So use them,’ the book says.
‘What did you say?’
‘Use them. The quotes. If they mean that much to you. No use keeping them in that,’ the book jabs its fingers in my direction, ‘that thing. Put them to use. Out there.’
The book makes a gesture behind it, at the window.
‘I don’t know how,’ I say. ‘Or where.’
‘That’s your problem,’ says the book. ‘You never do.’