by William Gaughan
The heaviness of the shoebox reminded me that it no longer housed its original contents; the fine sheet of dust, evidence of its solitude.
I knew that the box contained pictures; pictures that would be standing on edge and packed tightly, testing the seams of the receptacle. I expected to open a box of memories; memories that would be told out in frozen moments—fractions of a second meant to capture a smile or a posed scene—moments that I could use as I saw fit, to reminisce over or to put aside; pictures that could tell a story, a story open to my interpretation, a chance to recall what I wished and perhaps rewrite history, if only for the day. That is what I expected to find. I knew this because they were packed away by me more than 10 years ago.
In this time capsule of images, sandwiched among the well preserved young faces was a twice-folded piece of letter-sized paper—unremarkable by all accounts—just a short note written in haste by my own hand. The content of the note was short and the words alone harmless; one could easily dismiss them as a casual communication left to a spouse on any given day. The note read, “You know where I am and you know why l had to go. I will be in touch when I can and home as soon as possible. I love you” So quick and powerful were the feelings that this dated message rendered they overrode any emotion conjured up by the photos. I realized that in the few seconds it took for me to write those words, my world and the world we all knew had been changed forever. The note had a date on it: September 11, 2001.
I refolded the note along the same lines that had kept it silent all these years. I found a picture of myself in my Fire Department uniform posing with two other firemen. I tucked the picture into the fold of the note and replaced it in the shoebox. I slid the memories back under my bed and, for the second time, said goodbye to the men in the picture.
Richard Edwards has a BFA in Creative Writing and Journalism from Bowling Green State University and an M.S. in Education from the University of Akron. Managing editor of Drunk Duck, poetry editor for Prairie Margins, reporter for Miscellany, Akron Journal, Lorain Journal, and The BG News. He has also worked as a professional writer and editor in the medical publishing industry for several years. For the last 15 years Richard has also taught literature and writing at the secondary and post-secondary levels. He works much of the time with at-risk students.