The Past Haunts Me Still. Part 1: Here’s To the Future
November 16, 2008
Sunday Afternoon: After months of urging from my parents, I find myself digging through the last remaining items at home that fall under the title of “mine.” Some of these tokens of my past will find a new residence with my wife, Shannon, and me; the rest will be thrown away or donated to a second-hand thrift store. All in all, I feel acutely as if I have been pink-slipped from my family, and am now cleaning out my desk. But there is no desk, just two clear, plastic storage bins with red lids, and a mini set of plastic drawers. As I burrow through these containers I find my early life flashing before my eyes. An old, leather-bound journal, with the imprint of a quill on the front, contains scarcely more than eight entries and reminds me of the transience of time. It starts in October of 1990, before I could write proficiently; most of the entries are doodles of something I did that day. Playing Frisbee or Nintendo with my best friend Jake, or reading. They are all captured in the scrawling of crude caveman-like stick figures. 1991 passes on a single page with a visit to Canada and a trampoline. To my disappointment, my journal jumps from the trampoline to 1999. The ridiculous writing style is painful to read. It conjures up memories of bad haircut choices, clothing too big for my skinny frame, debilitating acne, teen angst and a delicate sense of insecurity. My journal is further rendered in all its bright, mockably-adolescent clown colors as Shannon begins reading from it out loud. “It was really sad,” she reads in a mocking tone. “OK, that’s enough,” I say and wrestle the journal from her hands. When her attention turns elsewhere I slide the journal under the bottom of the “keep” pile, and move on to another container.
The rest of this journey through time is more or less the same. I find early pictures with some of my family: of my younger brother and sister and I playing in the front yard in Tennessee. My brother in his karate outfit, trapped through photography as a yellow belt for all eternity. My sister once again the cute little girl that I sometimes still associate her as, even though she’s a senior in high school. Me in my over-sized cap, the brim casting a dark shadow over my eyes like a raccoon.
My wife goes through my drawing pads and says that she doesn’t think they are mine. I, however, shudder with instant recognition of the dragons, and monsters, and elves, and warriors, all in glorious mis-proportion, parading around the pages.
When all is done, and the piles of yearbooks, CDs, souvenirs and other tokens of my childhood and adolescence have been separated, I do not feel better. I do not feel as if the weight of the past has been lifted, or that it has been cast in a new light. Instead, I feel as if the gaunt skeletons of my past have been mobbing around me for the last hour or so, and putting me in a humiliating headlock, all the while kicking me repeatedly in the stomach and kidneys with their bony heels. I grimace in pain as I throw piles of worthless knickknacks in the garbage. I grimace as I stack old clothing, and books in a donation pile. I grimace as I pick up the box of books, photographs and souvenirs that I will keep, and load it into the backseat of my car. And the disappointment that even after so many years, I am still painfully sensitive of the past, is a hard notion to accept. I wonder that, for whatever reason, some ghosts may never stop haunting me.
November 17, 2008
Monday Afternoon: While on the internet, I stumble upon information about a time capsule called KEO. And so I begin pondering a way to rid myself of the past. The KEO, you see, is a time capsule that will be fired out into the cold reaches of space with certain items and messages from people around the planet, to return 50,000 years later to a much different Earth. What if, I ask myself, I could place the box from home into that time capsule? Would the people of Earth in 52,000 AD understand me better? Would those memories be far enough away from me, for me to move on? I realize that what I find more tantalizing than a benevolent Earth civilization filled with people I will never know going through my belongings, is the possibility that the time capsule could be obliterated mid-transit by an asteroid, or lose in a nasty entanglement with a space probe or satellite. After all, a lot can happen in 50,000 years. And even if it does somehow make it back to Earth, by then the language and civilization will have changed so much that no one would know what to do with it anyway. These future Earth people would be stronger than me; they would throw everything away.
November 19, 2008
Subject: Wanting to contribute to KEO
Hello and greetings,
You don’t know me but my name is Jeff. I live in America and have become fascinated with your time capsule and would like to inquire about some of its capabilities. For instance, how much stuff can it carry? Is there a maximum weight or volume limit to it? If, for instance, I wanted to place some objects that the future might find interesting, how much would it be able to carry?
The only reason I bring this up is because I happen to have 16 lbs (7 kg) worth of high school yearbooks, journals, drawings, cheap souvenirs, and embarrassing photographs from my childhood. If space is an issue they can be made to fit into a 10″x14″x7″ container. I have no qualms against donating these to a good cause, in particular your KEO project. My only stipulation is that you don’t look through my yearbooks, photographs or read my journal before you place it in the time capsule. I fear you will find them drab and uninteresting. I can assure you that the citizens of future Earth will find them exciting, especially the part where a certain person cross-dresses for a certain Shakespeare play.
The box is ready to ship at a moments notice. If money is a factor, I have included the $4.37 that I had in my wallet to cover any unease you may have about this mutually beneficial proceeding.
I only await your word.