The Box

28 October 2008

The box was simple. It was hand-crafted, seemingly by inexperienced hands. The lid was not attached to it, except for two mould-eaten strings, passed through rough holes in the wood. There were carvings on its top: words now unredable, names, a heart, crossed out by later cuts. Several layers of time were printed there; past drawings, gone relationships, ancient memories.

When I opened the box, it was as if I’d opened an old book. The same odour, the mark of time. The same resistance, this reticence of giving up secrets.

Dust spiraled under my breath. When it fell back, the content of the box, those pieces of childhood, were finally exposed to my sight. They seemed still defiant, as if daring me to uncover their stories.

A pair of little scissors and cotton string were the first things. The seemed to have been placed there in a rush, just before moving out of home. Pence coins, saved and never used. Several badges from the scouts. Love letters, with Xs in faded ink. Had they been received and kept? Or were they still waiting to be posted?

Further in the shade were deeper souvenirs. Diving into the swirls of dust, my eye caught on toys and objects only precious here. Glass marbles, scratched and marked, reflecting older games. Short pencils, used by force of fingers, sharpened with quick strokes of a knife. The knife itself, its steel blade half-open, shining still, having won its fight against time and rust. A little vial, empty now. Two little stones, black jewels in the dark.

Going back to the source, the beginning: the last objects, first put, unveiled from time. A sepia photograph of a baby. A name engraved in a bracelet. A petite cloth doll, of a rabbit. First fallen tooth, neatly labeled. Finally, a little card with a name and these words: “If by any luck you found this box, could you please return it to me.”

I looked up the name. Ten minutes later, when a heavy door opened and a grandmother looked at me, somewhat intrigued, I asked: “Is this yours?”