I didn’t. What I found instead were files upon files of other letters, manuscripts, notebooks, diaries, photos, tax returns, invitations to long defunct nightclubs, and bright lipstick pucker-prints on bar napkins. I sat on the warm attic boards that smelled the way only warm attic boards can smell—as distinct as the smell of wet sidewalks after rain—and paged through the many faded papers from my past.
I discovered letters from friends and family dating back to the late 1980s, when I uprooted myself and moved (with no degree, no job, no contacts, and only $250 in cash) from Minnesota to Manhattan. What struck me was the fact that I remembered very few of the people involved. The letters were like bulletins from a life I no longer remembered, sent to a person who no longer exists. (“The past is a foreign country,” the British novelist L. P. Hartley once wrote. “They do things differently there.”) – James Ireland Baker