An Old Trunk

When I started this blog a little over a year ago, I had just lost most of the writings and photographs I had from the first half of my life due to a bill paying snafu with American Self-Storage. I wrote in my first post that this loss had caused me to feel quite painfully how evanescent our memories are, more gaseous than a solid at the end of the day. I wrote that I felt “the loss that a prosecuting attorney must feel when critical evidence is destroyed. Evidence of my younger self – how I thought, felt, came at the world.”

It was also freeing — nostalgia is the original ball and chain, and I knew none of the material was world-changing — but it smarted. I had forgotten at the time that one trunk stuffed with old papers that I had intended to bring to storage was still in a corner in our office. I have thought about this trunk quite a bit since I re-discovered it six months ago, but I haven’t had the time, and more critically the emotional energy, to address it. I have quietly kindled hope that it might contain a stash of old writings and photographs of some significance to me, and as that hope has risen so too has a proportional fear that it’s filled with nothing but worthless old bills. So I haven’t been able to bring myself to open it. This despite the fact that the trunk has been sitting in the middle of the reception area in our office, staring me down every day.

Today, Sunday, I came in to the office and summoned the strength to crack it open. I was overwhelmed by the contents: dozens of old photos including one of my beloved old Kawasaki 450 LTD ; copies of Mondo 2000, an early 90s magazine about technology that some of you will remember; files of book reviews and whimsical essays I wrote for the Arkansas Democrat Gazette during my Little Rock years (which I never thought I would see again, published pre-internet); a pamphlet about “how to get on-line (sic) with E-World and the Internet!” — Apple’s ill-fated answer to AOL in the early 90s; a flyer for a mail order t-shirt company I had started called Wordwear (which taught me the important lesson that my taste is not universal); a big stack of letters from Jack Murnighan and Leif Ueland in their post-college years; a book proposal which would be picked up by a new york agent (very exciting at the time), but would not result in a book contract; two binders of college writings; a dorky invitation to a going away party I threw when I moved from Little Rock to New York (see below); a copy of Lotus 1-2-3 for the mac; and a photo of me as a child in my father’s lap, among other things.

Among this sundry detritus of my hapless 20s, I just found a handwritten note on a random piece of paper about the state of my relationship with the lovely but ultimately incompatible woman with whom I was living at the time. The note is dated November 18, 1993, which was, extraordinarily, 17 years ago (I was about 25). I am changing the name to protect the innocent:

“I sometimes feel that Z and my relationship has terminal problems. I get depressed, feel vulnerable, and then feel more in love with Z than ever. I have a solitary side of me that is not simply a form of solace in the absence of love, as it appeared to me during long years living in the absence of love: it is a relishing of our human condition that will always be with me. And I have a carefree, social side that is constitutionally autonomous. And I also have a powerful need to love and be loved exclusively. I do not think these facets of my personality are incompatible with one another, but they require a soulmate who does not feel that these other parts of my life are competition — a soulmate who shares these qualities.

“I think Z does share these qualities but nonetheless sees them as competition (mine anyway) for our love. And I do not know whether or not this can change.

I think this was a long winded way of saying that I needed to find a woman who was willing to give me room for my sometimes solitary relationship with myself, and my appetite for social shenanigans. It’s wonderful to read this years later realizing that I have found, married, and had three children with such a woman.

My favorite line from the above, which of course I have no recollection of having written, is this one — “I have a  solitary side of me that is not simply a form of solace in the absence  of love, as it appeared to me during long years living in the absence of  love … ” Apparently I thought, before I had fully experienced a loving relationship with a woman, that my relationship with myself was a consolation prize. It’s nice to learn otherwise.

a few pieces of dorky detritus from my 20s follows …


5 thoughts on “An Old Trunk

  1. What a gem of a posting. Glad to have a glimpse of a part of your life I missed, and to hear the wisdom of the past poured through the coffee filter of the present. I sometimes get stuck at awkward embarrassment when sifting through artifacts of my 20’s, but I love when I’m able to appreciate both who I was and who I am. Keenly aware of how today’s to-do lists will become tomorrow’s mementos, I increasingly find myself becoming nostalgic for the present.

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  2. The tshirt ad really brings it back. Fun to read about the time capsule. Nostalgia gets a bad rap and actually I think there is a difference when one doesn’t actually have perfect recall so that going through the trunk is to revive the actual knowledge of the past. With a rocky memory, I really appreciate giving these dormant memory sells a kick. Wishing you and family happy holidays and great success with santa. I am sure you are on his good list. At least, that is my hope.

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