Thursday, December 06, 2007

Dear One

Our basement has never been entirely dry. With the recent heavy rains, it's been wet again. And a cardboard box of my old papers, Martha told me, had gotten wet.

So I went down and opened it up. Cold and clammy. On the top was a flimsy manuscript box. I lifted its lid. "Appolonius of Tyre," I read. The title page of my second novel. I flipped through the pages. This wasn't the first time, obviously, it had gotten damp. Black mold spotted the upper left corners of the pages; a noxious dust rose from it. I put it aside, made a little queasy, and not by the dust. Presumably my first novel was in here somewhere too.

Old student evaluations. Papers I wrote at Yale on metrics and metonymy. A paper, God help us, on Lao Tzu, written when I was sixteen and going to Lane Community College in Eugene.

Christ. More manila folders. One fell open and I lifted out a closely filled handwritten card. Who on earth was it to? I couldn't read the salutation. "Dear Orn"? Who on earth was that? I read a little, and got accustomed to the hand. Of course. Mary Pat, from grad school, twenty-some years ago now. "Dear One," it began. She was a southerner, who specialized in 18th Century lit, and used that epistolary language of passionate friendship. It must have been written during the summer after our first year in graduate school.

I found her online -- at least I think it was her; her name is fairly common -- and wrote her an email, a couple years ago. She never replied.

I paused. Hundreds, probably thousands of pages. I could look through them, and savor the melancholy of it all. Obviously I once thought I would want to. Or even that somebody else would want to.

I shut the box up and came back upstairs. "Let's just toss it," I said to Martha.

The cold rain keeps falling, here. Floods up north, and towards the Coast.

With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
For the rain it raineth every day
With a hey, ho, the wind and the rain
For the rain it raineth every day.

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