With all my options tonight, I chose to stay home--a steel guitar playing and a box of memories at my feet. No photographs or love letters, just piles of tax returns and receipts from the past 13 years of my life.
Papers bound in rubber bands, marked and labeled. The new sofa, a crib for baby, an electric bill from the apartment on 71st Street. The music is gentle, the ceiling fan spins--low lights and a plastic bag for the stuff I no longer need.
I've moved so fast--out of marriage and into myself--through awakening, discovery, bliss and grief--I've been running like I'm wild, and these memories make me stop. Annie's first plane ride, a stub from the circus, a birthday surprise.
I cautiously sift through a stack of phone bills from the year my father died--and they go backwards in sequence. December 1996 then November--there's June and May. And before I go further I wonder--will February feel different in my hand? April--what was life like then? March. The guitar strumming hard like it can't arrive soon enough--wanting to make up for lost time, feel every ounce of everything, or maybe just wanting to let everything go. February. I hold my breath, flip the page and there it is--11:39, the last time I would hear his voice--9:16, when I was told he was gone.
The plastic bag now full of what I no longer need--a pay stub from a forgotten job, the big tip David gave, an explanation of benefits. The box of proof now empty, the bag of proof in a tin can.
The proof of this Friday night, of my husband's love, my child's birth, and of my father's death. Proof of my life unbound, no strings or ink, nothing to contain, is right here--inside a room, inside a woman, free of what she no longer needs--as the strumming frees the broken heart of the steel guitar.