I found what I was looking for in an old worn shoebox. The shoebox was in the bottom of the closet. The closet was in the corner of the study. The study was at the back of the house, over looking the over grown garden. I knew that they would be somewhere like that. I’d checked under the bed in the man’s room. I’d looked in the drawers in his dresser. I looked on his messy, cluttered desk. I knew that they would be somewhere. Somewhere hidden, so that they didn’t interfere with anything around them.
I pulled out the shoebox and looked around before I opened it. There were people mulling around, picking things up and checking price tags. A lot of things didn’t have price tags. Some people liked those things. I was one of those people. I could hear them in the other rooms haggling over prices of things. I heard people saying things like, “Oh, this would be nice in the den” and “I wish this hadn’t been painted white”.
I looked back at the shoebox. It was an old thing. Maybe from the early eighties. The old price tag was still on the box. The corners had been frayed and bashed in. They had started to burst out of their shape and show their little card fibers. I could smell the box over the smell of mothballs and the carpet. It smelt like old paper that had been soaked in the rain and dried in the sun. Everything in the house smelled so old and stale, but this box had a little freshness still trapped inside it.
I opened the box and saw a mass of paper and cards and receipts and pictures. All the paper had turned a light brown and a little crispy, like it had been blasted by time. I pushed my hand down onto the paper. I heard it crunch a little, like dead leaves. I started carefully picking through the box. The same handwriting marked everything. It was the handwriting of an older man. It was sharp and pointed. It was elegant. Thought was given to each dip and swoop of the pen. I started to flick through things, pulling something out now and again to look at it. I looked at strips of paper with thoughts and reminders written on them, postcards, from Paris, Rome, Cairo, letters, from Ohio, Delaware, Ontario, and photographs, from places I didn’t know.
I pulled out a postcard. It was a painting of some 50s saloon bar in Vegas. I turned it over.
“We need to talk when I get home. I’ve been thinking” it read. There was no address, no stamp and no sender information. Other than the handwriting.
I sat the box down and stared at the words again. I ran my fingers across the back. I felt the bumps in the ink like braille. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I smelled everything in the house around me, and imagined the man that lived there, and what he’d been thinking.