Today was day one of what I've decided to call Forty Days, Forty Boxes. I went through my first box today, and all I can say is: Wow. The box I chose was obviously one I had intended to unpack immediately after I moved in, but somehow it got put down into the basement, where it hasn't been opened for more than six years. It contained all kinds of odds and ends, like half-used haircare products, brushes, bottles of nail polish, address books, birthday cards, an itinerary for a trip that I took with some students back when I was teaching in Nebraska... It must have been one of those last-minute, throw-everything-in-because-it's-time-to-leave-and-I'm-tired-of-packing boxes. What a mess! I threw nearly everything away, but I found that I'm still attached to things like cards from my family and letters written by friends I rarely talk to now. I kept those.
I did find one thing that I can't get out of my mind. It was a note from Rob, a guy I dated when I was working on my master's degree. It wasn't a love note or a note of any real significance, at least on the surface. It simply said that he would meet me at my place at 6:15. That's it. But I had saved it because, although I'd had boyfriends before him, I considered him my first real love, and the breakup was very hard. I think it gave me comfort to have that note, those words that were written for me, by him. At the time, the note made me feel like there was still a thread of connection between us, and I needed to feel that then. I thought about him for a long time after we graduated and went our separate ways, and I Googled him from time to time, trying to find out what happened to him. I just wanted to know. I did have some contact with him about six years after graduation, soon after I had married my second husband (the man I'm married to now). He found me on MySpace and sent me a message, and we talked off and on for a few weeks--and then nothing. I was busy; I'm sure he was too. I had just had a baby, and he took up all of my time, as babies do, and I didn't pay a lot of attention to keeping up with friends on MySpace. When I did go back to check his page a few months later, it was gone. He had deleted it. I haven't heard from him in about four years.
After I found the note today, I Googled him once again. I didn't do it because I want some kind of relationship with him but because now, as before, I just want to know. I learned that his mother had died about a year after we talked on MySpace, and I learned where he had last lived and taught. But I can't find anything current, and I haven't been able to get him out of my mind all day. I'd like to find him again, contact him, see if he's okay. I want to know if he's happy. I want to tell him that I'm happy. I have two beautiful children and a husband who loves me. But Rob was a big part of my life once upon a time, and finding that note today--that simple note--reminded me just how important he was.
I kept the note. I couldn't throw it away.
I probably never will.