Leah is away at camp, off in the woods in Minnesota. She’s fills the house up so much when she’s here, when she’s gone it feels empty. I walk through it, touching things, touching memories. Walk into the kitchen and I hear her voice, hear a conversation we had about the girl at school who was teasing her about a boy. Or into the living room and I remember a laugh over something we saw on TV. Her voice everywhere. Sometimes I feel like the last survivor in a ghost town, a place that everyone else has thought to empty out but me.
I thought I’d better do something, so I got down some of the boxes we’d left up in the attic, the boxes that got packed in Boston last, things we weren’t sure we wanted to keep but were pretty sure we didn’t want to throw away. The random scraps that somehow didn’t get packed with other things. I thought, “Well, if I haven’t missed it by now, I must not need it.” I got out a big trash bag. I thought this would be a one- or two-hour job.
That was three days ago. I’m only on the second box. Everything I pick out, I hear voices too, or memories. I have to look over everything, and I find myself lost in memory of the old days in Boston. I must be losing my mind.
There were letters, letters from my mother, letters from friends. Letters to friends. I never knew I wrote so many letters and didn’t send them. Even in Boston, I guess I liked to talk and have the words blow away, as if I were living here already. There was a letter from my friend Patty, one of my best friends from college. She was about to give birth to their second child, their daughter, who is in high school already. It was a letter about the wedding. I think I read it four or five times. It was like reading a description of someone else’s party, a happy celebration, not the start of the failed marriage where I’ve lived. We finally made it. … When he pulled out the ring from his pocket his eyes had that old light in them that dances when he smiles and he joked, of course he joked, and he said, as he raised the band to my finger he said, ‘What’ll you bet I’ve got the wrong one and this will be too big for your thumb.’ But of course it was right, finally right … This was the greatest day of our lives.”
I guess I thought that. I see that day through a mirror so splotched and fogged I can’t even remember the woman who could have written those words. Last night I called another friend, Rita, who moved away from Boston with her wife Liz and they have a place down in New Mexico. I told her about some of those words, “The greatest day of our lives.” I said I didn’t remember being so happy. She told me, “At our table, at dinner, we were giving odds on how long it would last. We loved both of you, but with Erik such the loose, fun type, ready to run off and do anything, and you so grounded but happy to stay in your safe place, nobody gave you guys long odds. I think you lasted longer than most of the people would have guessed. Not Liz and I, of course, but other people.”
So I guess everyone else understood this better than I did. There I was, apparently thinking it was the greatest day of my life, and friends were laying odds on how long before I woke up and realized how stupid I had been. No wonder there are so many letters here I’ve never seen. The voices are only for me.