textbook covers, in memoriam

Doodle-a-Day sheet

Doodle-a-Day sheet (Photo credit: CaZaTo Ma)

When I have my students complete a writing exercise, almost half of them have a caricature of themselves, or flowers, or deep pen scratches in the margins.  They’re telling stories in their own ways, unprompted by me.

I don’t doodle anymore.  This is sad.  I should doodle.  One class, everyone should tell a story in doodles.

The word is nostalgic for me, and fun to say.  Say it: “Doodle.”  You’re smiling, aren’t you?

For me, doodling passed with high school lunches, notes slid in the slots of lockers, or mix cds for birthdays.

It was considered a homework assignment during the first week of class to have your class textbook covered, as though the paper would protect the book from the threat of real damage.  I did it, though, because I followed institutional rules.

The smell of the paper bag itself was wonderful– a soft smell like crayons, a kindergarten classroom, the musk of a tree.

It only took a week or two for the wearing at the corners to begin, the fibers unraveling like the math problems inside or the pop quiz scores that made my mouth dry up and my teeth clench.

I doodled the initials of my crushes on the paper that folded over the textbook’s cover and tucked around the front.  Often, if someone was being nosy, I’d slam the book shut after I finished the second initial.  I still won’t tell it.

Then, I got a boyfriend.  I drew hearts around his name on the brown cover and wrote 4-ever just like everyone else, though I hated numbers.  The hearts never had arrows on my books.  Sometimes, when I would break up with my boyfriend for a few days, I would put a heavy X over the heart, or write a large N in front of the “ever” in “4-ever.”  By then, the cover was slit near the spine,  softening around the edges like a soggy cracker.

The annoying person next to me wrote obscene words on my book cover so I scribbled over it with cross-hatching.   I should really change the cover, I thought.

I folded the new paper bag over the book and taped around the corners this time and wrote my boyfriend’s initials in pencil.  When I erased it a week later, the eraser left permanent gray feathers on the cover.  Next time, I decided, I would turn his initials into pretty flowers or trees.  I would doodle them into oblivion.

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About Sarah Cedeño

Sarah Cedeño received her BA and MA in Creative Writing from SUNY-Brockport, and her MFA in fiction from Goddard College. Her work has appeared in The Rumpus, Hippocampus Magazine, The Bellevue Literary Review, Literary Mama, and Redactions. She lives in Brockport with her husband and two sons and teaches writing at SUNY-Brockport. View all posts by Sarah Cedeño

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