I describe myself as anally- retentive girl who arranges books according to genre, by year it was published and by cover (from hard bound to soft bound). I am addicted to organization.
Yesterday, I cleaned my book shelf. I started it with my usual routine of putting the books at the table nearby, categorizing them accordingly and cleaning them with a vacuum cleaner or a soft cloth. To date, I got 258 books ranging from classic to fictional.
While carefully dusting off the cobwebs in between pages, I came across so many old stuffs. I saw the achievement badge that I got when I was in my 5th grade when I had topped the best book review in my class, the anonymous love letter that an anonymous admirer gave to me when I was in high school, my dad’s handwritten birthday greeting and there was also this handwritten note that had cryptic instruction “open at your own risk”.
Curious on the latter find, I decided to opened it and found a riddle leading to a clue. It was written on my 18th birthday, May 26, 1999 at 12:00 am.
Pile on stones,
Yet I will
Dig up the bones.
Stiff is my spine and my body is pale
But I am always ready to tell-tale
Find the ode to thy self
With a dozen keys that none of them open a door
Riddle. I love riddles. So I found myself spending hours figuring out what the riddle meant. Bury deep. Bury deep. I kept on repeating the first phrase in my mind. What do you have to bury deep and pile on stones? I asked myself. It should be something that is rare, a mystery unsolved, secret untold or something that one needs to retain ownership. I left the first and second phrase and jumped to the third and fourth line that says of going back or reliving. I thought to myself that the only thing that makes me relive the moment is through memories. So I wrote in a piece of paper “Memories”.
Next line was pretty easy, ‘stiff is my spine and my body is pale’, I was thinking of the pages of books and stiffness of the book binding and of how they look like spinal cord that physically assembles the book. The next phrase, Always tell tale, is without a doubt a clue that pertains to a book. So I wrote “Book”.
The third stanza was quite challenging. It says find the ode to thy self. An ode is a lyrical poem in which a person expressed a strong feeling of love or respect for someone or something. It is a way of describing an event or thing intellectually and emotionally. So I came to this conclusion that it is a detailed description of me. It is ‘I, myself and me’ in which I would read in this book. It was my story.
Because the ending of a riddle is usually the location where the so-called treasure was hidden, I assume the last phrase will point me where this book was hidden. With a dozen keys that none of them open a door.
What place is that? I mumbled. Could be a key or figurative keys? What key could not open a door? I asked myself. I began enumerating the things in the house that have keys. Taken by surprise, piano has keys that literally could not open the cover. So I wrote “Piano”.
The answer ‘memories-book-piano’ did not make sense to me. So I just went to our living room and look for a book.
Our upright antique piano was bought 1986 by my Dad. It was beautiful deep mahogany with intricate details of intertwined notes that resembles a neoclassical art. As I lifted the cover and run my fingers across the keys, I noticed a secret compartment just below the music sheet holder. It concealed a hard bound blue book with approximately 86 pages.
The book was given on my 18th birthday. It was called ‘All About Me’ written by Philipp Keel. The book actually reminded me of the autograph books I used to sign when I was in grade school. Of course, the questions are more adult material. The book is like a journal filled with checklists and blank questions that are divided into 25 categories of questions on sexuality, ego, wishes and dreams, opinions, emotions, memories as well as choices.
Sifting through the pages got me emotional. As I go through my answers, I never thought that I have come that far; dealt with the major, overlying issues of myself; lived my dreams of visiting New York; took major risks of working an hourly job or grueling hard labor, like waiting tables (It was a very humbling experience by the way. More than getting tips and bussing tables, it teaches me way of life, people skills and to dream big).
I felt my tears welled up after reading my answers to certain questions.
Your most expensive possession: MY FAMILY
Your prized possession: EDUCATION
You would fight in a war if (1) THE SECURITY OF THE FAMILY IS AT STAKE (2) I HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE
A city you like to visit: NEW YORK
A moment when you achieved absolute happiness: MAKE PEACE WITH THE PAST, TAKE MAJOR RISKS, PURSUE PASSION AND EARN A MASTER’S DEGREE
An insult that made you burn: THE UGLY FAT GIRL WITH BIG CHUNKY LEGS
Your dream: TO SEE DIFFERENT CULTURES AND PLACES
The memory that still makes you laugh: WHEN A PACK OF CANINE (20 dogs TO BE EXACT) ANGRILY chased me that I have to run as fast as my legs could carry me; leaving MY SHOES , BAGS AND SKIRT (YES SKIRT) BEHIND. Tough one but I realized I got good legs for sprinting. THANK GOD FOR MY big chunk UNSHAPELY LEGS!
Reading the book is like a therapy. I laugh and cry at the things I wrote 15 years ago.
Some of my thoughts, beliefs and ideas have also shifted within the years like the three things I would rescue if I found out that my house is burning as well as the things I wish to learn with the snap of my fingers.
If your house was burning and you only had time to rescue three things: My Diary (my secrets might be revealed that I killed someone in my thoughts), My dog and piano
My answer to date: Oversized Wallet (where I carry all my money, cards and passport), heirloom jewelry (from my dad) and journal.
Something you wish you could learn with the snap of your fingers: Math (College Algebra and Statistics)
My answer to date: Other Language (French, Spanish and German)
I am glad that I am better than the person I am 15 years ago. What I wrote in the book was mostly how I imagine my life in 10 or 15 years (I like the idea that my story is going to be around somewhere one day when I am gone, so future generations can really get an idea who their ancestors were). I appreciate the opportunity that I was able to document and muster my thoughts, ideas and beliefs through that book. Looking back on the things I wrote, I think I did a pretty good job.
This year I will make each day count and make myself a living proof that ‘life is beautiful’
Does a naked photo of you exist?
So does a naked photo of me exist? Yes and I am staring at it right now. A beautiful painting done by a talented artist.