There is no footprint next to the confidential shred bin at work. There is no indication that I stood there for a long moment, contemplating my choices: throw seven years of black-and-white-speckled composition books in the shred bin, or take them back home and hoard them in the basement. My words. My pain. My death grip on the illusion of self-ness, of permanence. I journal, therefore I am. Throw the journals in the bin, and who am I then? What captures the passage of time, and shows the world I was, when I am no longer? What will I do with them if I keep them? Open a box while repacking for the umpteenth time and find the notebooks swollen with humidity from thirty years of New England freeze/thaw cycles, and find this seven-year stretch of anguished introspection? All that self pity. All that smeary clinging to shadows and reflected egotism. Finding the books, excavating them, would be good for what, exactly? The pages tell a story of sorts, but do not define me. Standing at the shred bin, I'm already not the person who held the pen and marked out mistakes carefully with correction tape. I'm much more battered, heartbroken, footsore. I'm more obsessive about some things, and less obsessive about other things. I've repainted and plastered an old house I will live in without the person who bought it for me, no, for us, to grow old in beside the sea. I wept and sang sad songs while I painted and plastered, knowing I was building something impermanent on the ashes of something else that had turned out to be, unexpectedly, impermanent.
There is no mark on the carpet where I turned on my heel and stepped away from the bin. No signpost pointing to the first footprint of the rest of my life. There is no trail of footprints leading back to my desk, and then to the office supply store, and to home and to the fresh new journal, with all of its empty pale blue lines, and beckoning, empty pages promising new beginnings. When I throw the next seven years in the bin, there will be no footprints to mark that moment either.
Once, I saw an artist set a sculpture made of leaves and thorns afloat in a briskly moving stream.
It was beautiful for five minutes, and then it was gone.