14 June 2007

Private - Keep Out

I have a confession to make, while I'm spinning down cells and lining up tubes for the day's experiments. I read your notebook. It was too tempting, sitting there on the counter the other night, watermarked and dog-eared as a testament to the places to which you'd toted it. I wasn't expecting it to be personal: the first few pages were crinkly scrawls of addresses.. Maine, Paris, Alabama. A recipe or two. And then the entries that made me think I shouldn't in fact be reading. Financial worries. Body image crises. To dos. Do you have any idea what you can discover about a person from the way they list and execute To Dos?

I felt guilty, but I kept reading. I didn't find out, in that disjointed progression of pages (dates unmarked) who financed your hiking rent, or if you moved to alleviate the pressure. Which diet worked? What are you on now? Why are you so driven by your health -- is it medical advice, or something else? Because you see, though your name was on the front.. I don't know you. I couldn't have picked you out of a crowd, and I wasn't going to be at work when you came to retrieve your lost book on Wednesday. So there was no harm, right?

Perhaps. More interesting, I thought, was the guilt I felt for reading this complete stranger's journal. True, she left it at the pool. True, I'll never know who she is.. I can't even recall her last name -- Ms. S-something. -- sitting here this morning. True, she knew it was there, and if it was a diary.. something intense and deeply personal.. she could have made arrangements to pick it up so it wasn't sitting at the desk that evening. But still, I felt guilt.

People blog every day about matters from esoteric to deeply personal. Reading them, I discover more about people's lives than I would probably in a week of face-to-face conversation. It's far easier to type some things out than to verbally admit them, especially the hard stuff, and for some reason, truth becomes secondary. It doesn't matter to me if the sex-blogger is actually a call girl with a steady boyfriend, relying on her trade to pay her way through college/help with medical bills for her sick grandmother/satisfy her personal needs, or if she's a woman at a desk pouring her own imagination into the web with relatively artful writing. I don't care if the drama that exploded in a study group was a big deal, I enjoy reading rants or reflections about work, school, life. I enjoy the way each writer uses his or her own gifts to convey the mundane or unusual into clever prose.

There was nothing particularly clever about this notebook. It was nothing more than I'd read in a stranger's blog. The handwriting changed from time to time: the same script, I imagined, but in some places long and relaxed, in others cramped and hurried. And maybe it was that. A personal touch, the sense of someone else taking the time to shape each letter, carry the thing around with her to write thoughts as they occurred. When I blog, I publish my posts.. when she was done, she closed the book cover. No expectation of sharing.

Sorry Ms. S.

1 comment:

Mr. Shife said...

Yeah I would feel really guilty too but I think I would be like you and have hard time not snooping around in it if the notebook was there. Hopefully Ms. S will never know and the guilt will subside for you soon.