legacies and paper trails

A dear friend of mine committed suicide recently, unexpectedly. I was looking through what she left behind with her brother, and we found a little box full of receipts. Her brother figured she was just keeping a record for herself, but the box intrigued me. I asked if I could keep it and he said sure. I put it in my bag.

While he continued looking through her things, I was looking through some of her jackets. She liked wearing jackets and had a lot of them. And the pockets were mostly full of receipts. Some were faded so only the server's name was readable, or only the restaurant, or only the price. Some were to places I had no idea what they were or that she had ever been to.

I spent the evening poring over these old receipts. They told me nothing, were kept haphazardly in a dusty box, obviously never looked at again, but there was something that kept her from throwing them away. There was nothing unusual about her spending habits, no way to create some narrative from it. Perhaps that was the story. I wanted something unusual. I wanted a marked deviation towards the end, or some dark secret that was revealed in a receipt for $17.76 at the grocery store. It's information for accountants, not for bereaved friends.

I saved a few of them. Times I remembered, things she'd bought that I recognized. I keep them in my own box, and never look at them. But lately I've taken to keeping my own receipts and putting them in the pockets of my jacket, just in case.



I'm at the airport, staring at the screen with the lists of departures, flights, arrival times, delays--people walking around me, brushing past me, leaving, arriving, waiting for friends, family, relatives.

Eventually I check my bags and shuffle through the security, thinking of all the other people who were departing. It wasn't their stories that interested me this time. I wonder how many of them are returning, how many of them are being replaced by others. Everyone in the airport eventually wears the same hassled look of too many security checks and too many excess fees, waiting in line, hoping everything works, being made aware that everything really important to you fits in a couple of bags, that it will be searched by people who have never met you, and that they will not find anything interesting about it. Whether that is a comfort or a fear--in the end everyone looks at the planes with the same mixture of boredom and trepidation.

Even the ones who aren't returning. I wonder if anyone notices the wistful quality to my gaze. There are no families embracing past the security checkpoints. None of the travelers look happy to be home, however many of them are coming home. I'm sure some of them are secretly happy, though. And I know I'm happy to be home, even if it's for the last time.

I'm one of the last to board my flight. I have a window seat. I close my window and close my eyes so I don't have to see when we depart.


where i've been lately

The past few days I've been wandering. Visiting old friends, exploring places I'd never been--carrying most of my stuff in a bag or the back of my car. It's always a weird sort of feeling. We never act like I'm about to leave forever. It's always casual conversation, asking about the last few days. It's like watching a clip from a movie or reading a chapter from a novel. I don't know their stories anymore, and I'm reading a little chunk of it. But they look happy now, mostly.

I wonder if they notice that I'm coming undone. I've got a few nervous tics. I fade in and out of attention as some little thing, a movement of her hand or something she says, draws me back to the time she--well, that's another story altogether. I return to reality and shake my head to get back. I blink a lot more, scratch my arms, look around--do they see me? Do they know? And I do it all more when I'm nervous.

And the night comes to a close and they ask if I need a ride back to my car and I say "No, it's okay." So then it's hugs and handshakes and fleeting glances and I'm alone in a darkened parking garage. It's a long walk to my car, a hundred miles to the place where I'm staying--and I realize I'm finally a man without a home.



Solipsism is the belief that you are the only person or thing which is real--everything else is the product of your imagination. Lately I've been wondering if I'm not an illusory being--maybe the world is real and I'm not really here, like a ghost or something. Oh, sure, people talk to me, even interact with me, but it seems like it's on a limited level. If I'm hallucinating my own existence, or at least my own interactions with the world, it's not a stretch to assume I can hallucinate some limited interactions with people. My ghostly brain just adjusts all the facts to make it seem like I'm really here.

It doesn't make sense, of course. But I feel dreamlike and detached, I feel like people forget that I exist--and that makes me wonder if I ever really existed in the first place, or if I just wish that I did. I cling to photographs, things I've written, a handshake--some desperate evidence that I'm really here.


express mail

I wrote a letter, a real letter, the other day. It was a personal letter, to someone I'd written letters to before--and sometimes they were never sent or never delivered and sometimes I'm sure she got them but never read them, but I know she read at least some of them. We still talk sometimes. The letters are a part of our relationship that I'm still not even sure I understand. It makes the moments real, somehow.

I don't have an outgoing mail slot so I walked out to the post office. It costs twenty dollars to ship something by express mail, and I wondered how many letters get shipped express. There by tomorrow a noon. Guaranteed. It's not important, or expected, and I don't even think she'll be home and if I really need to hear from her there's always email, which we use, but--

I decided to ship it express anyway. I dodged the questions when the woman at the counter tried to make conversation, because I didn't want anyone to think I was weird. Or at least, not yet. I'm sure it will all melt down soon, but I've long stopped trying to resist my whims. Anyway, I couldn't bear the thought of another undelivered letter.