Posted by: fullandbye | October 25, 2004

dead man’s life

I spent some time this weekend clearing out a bunch of stuff from the garage of a man, unknown to me, now deceased.
Most of my thought during this time was devoted to the material aspect of the job. Thoughts like “this truck is really fun to drive” or “this house he lived in is really gorgeous; I wonder what it sold for” and “jesus, this matress is really damp and moldy.”

But then a moment at the dump.

Unable to move the heavy filing cabinet out of the pickup truck whole, I opened the drawers and emptied the files into the enormous orange recycling bin.

And it hit me.

I am reducing to rubbish the textual record of someone’s material existence. Receipts and tax statements, correspondence with accountants and old friends, occassionally a withered photograph tucked into the sepia files–a secret lover perhaps?

And text.

Words written before I was a word, before my mother was a word, or my father.
The effects of generations evident in the withered, gossamer fragile and crumbly paper. Receipts handwritten replaced by coldtyped words. Invoices become more corporate; special logos and typefaces on paper whiter than the tarnished bond of yore. Then pieces of paper printed by dot-matrix printers, the sprocket-hole strips still attached. Finally, the familiar glossy barcoded bills and swag of computerized commerce that I take for wretched granted.

All transactions reduced to void. Ephemera of the banal life–heating bills, the warmth of home and the money exchanged since sprited away into the silvery nexus of energy and capital, of smoke and fortunes. And some things that might remain; a contractors bill for the pouring of a cement patio. I walked on this patio, built in August 1963, just a day ago when I removed some debris from the backyard. The cement survives silent. But its “birth certificate” is become pulp.

All is become decay and silence.

And when this refuse of a vanished life has become anonymous, I am left only with thoughts of mortality and my own material existence.

Who will dispose of the effects of my life?

Who will think these thoughts, standing someplace like here, with things that are not yet mine but will outlive me nevertheless?

What will be when everyone and everything I know has passed?


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