When I got home, I changed clothes, popped open a brewski and settled onto the floor in my living room. It was chilly, so I threw a couple of my recently purchased Duraflame logs into fireplace. That was something I only did occasionally but for some reason, tonight seemed appropriate.
Once again, I pulled out my Barlow knife and this time, I cut the twine that held the box together.
Suddenly, I wasn’t so anxious to see what was inside. I don’t know if I was afraid that I would be disappointed in what I found or even more disappointed in what I didn’t find. After a few swigs of liquid courage, I took off the lid.
I found myself looking at what seemed to be nothing more than a stack of letters. I took one out and then another and then another.
I opened one of them and started to read. It was very passionate and personal and spoke of things that in my younger years, would have probably made me blush.
I wondered if this was the first time they had been read by the light of a fire. They were old letters and all the dates were from the late 50s and early 60s.
I realized that I was looking at a secret past that happened before I was even born.
There were love notes written on paper napkins and some included rendezvous times and places. Some of the letters had smudged ink marks, much like would happen when tears had fallen onto them. Some of them had a lipsticked kiss on them.
It didn’t take long for what I was seeing to register and I wasn’t going to need Sherlock Holmes to solve this mystery for me. All I seemed to be able to do was shake my head and say “wow. Wow.”
This woman had a secret and she took it to the grave, or so she probably thought and it was clear to me why it needed to be kept secret.
Now, that secret was mine. I continued to read the letters and notes that first, the safe deposit box and then the little Buster Brown shoe box had guarded all these years.
The contents of that box laid bare why this woman had, as the coroner said, literally died from a broken heart. I now had the power to continue to keep her secret or expose it.
The decision for me, came quickly and easily. I picked the letters up, one by one and put them into the fireplace. I watched as they had that familiar blue glow that appears when you burn a piece of paper.
Her secret was being consumed one letter at a time, just as her body would soon be consumed one limb at a time.
I kept one letter aside that had never been opened. Did she think, I wondered, “if I never open this letter, there will always be another letter?”
One quick swipe from my knife would make known the contents of something that had been written more than fifty years ago, or it could meet its fiery fate, having never been read.
I sat on the floor for what seemed like hours, staring at the now empty box and the one unopened letter. I had to make a decision. I put the letter in the box and carefully replaced the lid.
Did I burn the last letter? Will I ever reveal what I found in the box? Will I ever reveal who the letters were from?
Maybe someday I will, if and when I write my memoirs.
Then again, maybe I won’t. Some things should probably just be kept secret.