The Big Red Notebook


A vignette I wrote for English back in freshman year.


Nervously, I bring it out – that which I didn’t think would ever see the light of day, at least not amidst the eyes of these strangers I call my classmates. I try to pull it out secretly, slowly, like a lone pirate finding his treasure, as would be fitting for a vessel full of secrets. But ironically, my treasure trove screams for attention. I catch a handful of my nosy classmates curiously peeking as it rises out of my bag like a sun over the horizon, a big, blazing red repository of my drawings, notes, snippets, short essays, poetry, and documentations of conversations – all my most deeply anchored thoughts, collaged with my in-the-moment ones. Its bright plastic face greets me like an old friend, and it might as well have been.

It was the size of two standard notebooks placed side by side, and a little more than an inch thick. Its sheer bigness opened a million more possibilities in the wealth of its smooth cream-white pages. I feel the impressions of its spiralling spine and its cardboard back in my fingers, like as if it was the one making marks in me and not the other way around. “Bring your most prized possession,” my English teacher had said the day before. Well, here it was. The Big Red Notebook; the portal to the World of Kim.

“What’s that?” It’s Alex.

“My red notebook.” There was no way to summarize the magnitude of its meaning. “It’s for English.”

“Can I read it?”

“Only the pages I allow you to read.” Only the pages filled with light and joy and beauty. Only the pages of no consequence. Only the pages I was sure you’d understand.


There were light things in my notebook.

I stored the notes I had passed in class in its pockets. I wrote and drew on every white space that was there. I wrote musings, little commentaries and observations about the world. I practiced writing with my non-dominant hands from right to left, or backwards, or upside-down, alongside a shakily written record of names of all the people who joined me. There was a nonsensical comic strip a friend had made for me, and a list of things I wanted to learn about.

And there were dark things.

Angry poetry, written by a hand threatening to tear the paper. Sad little snippets and ravings that would convince any reader to conclude that I must be emo (note: I am not actually emo). Tear-splattered pages; shaky, fast lines and curves; an outpouring of all the ugly and unstable that resided within me. Everything they wouldn’t understand.


“Give it to your partner. He or she will keep it overnight.”

My classmates gasp, but I’m not surprised. I had a feeling ma’am would say that. My eyes skip past Alex’s long brown hair and fix on Ella. We exchange quick smiles.

What does surprise me, however, is how I’m not scared, either. Exactly why do I feel like I’m okay with letting Ella, who I only met four months prior to this, sift through my notebook? Why do I even want her to go through it, that which I was hesitant to even let Alex see? I feel guilty. And yet I feel like I’m on the verge of freedom.


“Write a paper about what you learned about your partner from their most valued items.”

I sit in front of the computer screen. I crank out something beautiful – full of deep meditation and loads of sap that I meant every single word of. As I lovingly make the exquisitely detailed essay about her, I realize why I was alright with letting her read through the Big Red Notebook. Ella and I were different – she was an elfin girly-girl and I was tall, tough and plain – but as I explored her character and dug into how we were as friends, I discovered that we were like kindred souls. I just knew she understood. I didn’t question it any further.


Break time. Our valuable items have found their way back into our arms. I flip through the pages. There’s a new entry, one in the sharp yet curvy, skinny handwriting I know wasn’t mine.

Hi Kimmy!

Do you mind if I steal a page from your most prized possession? Of course you won’t, you’re too nice! I just want you to know that I was inspired by all the things you wrote. When I read them, you kinda reminded me of myself. You’ll be a good example to all of us (even to me). Haha! Never mind my drama. Or maybe you should get used to it. After all, we’ll be hanging out a lot more now.

            Love always,



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