I can't really remember how old I was. I may have been in my late thirties, maybe I was in my early forties. And I can't remember what time of year it was. But I can remember the dark of the night. I must have been alone that evening, strange enough, with a wife and children always close by. I can see myself, I seem like myself but also like a man I do not know, I can see myself in the attic, piling a few boxes full of loose papers and notebooks. Separating notebooks from one box and moving them to another, not poring through them yet pausing to make a few now inexplicable exclusions. Pulling a few things out and setting them safely aside.
I can see myself carrying those boxes down the stairs and out of the house to the sidewalk. I know I'd chosen to take these things out at night, late at night. They would only sit on the sidewalk for a few hours, there would likely be no passerby, no one to wonder at the contents of the boxes. I knew of course that the trash men came very early to my house. That by the time I was awake, these boxes full of loose papers and selected notebooks would be gone.
When I was a boy, I liked to draw. I drew pictures of houses and I invented towns and countries for the houses to be in. Sometimes I made maps of these places and sometimes I gave them names and histories. And, when I was a little older, a young man, I liked to write stories. Stories, and sometimes plays, even film scripts. I collected these drawings and these stories and I kept them in boxes. I never showed them to anyone, I just kept them in boxes, and in fact I was a little bit careful to make sure that no one saw them, they were mine and I just kept them in boxes.
By the time I was in high school, I was writing journals. I wrote those journals in the spiral bound notebooks I used in class. I remember those journals quite well. There was nothing so incriminating in them, but there was much youthful angst and passion. The world was a dramatic place to me then. Everything seemed terribly important. My friends knew me as a writer, I was sure to write something someday.
And then it ended. Quite suddenly, I now see. It ended at a certain period at college, a period in which I was apparently making a few life decisions. Though I know I didn't see it for that at the time. Decisions about which parts of my personality were to stay and which were to go. I must have been a determined young man, because the parts I meant to go, went. Romantic notions of life as a writer. Resistance to the bourgeois life. Taking life very seriously. Self examination. And writing itself. And attraction to men....
I didn't write another personal word for the next twenty years. No stories. No poems. No screenplays, for heaven's sake. No letters that could not be read by an acquaintance.
And no journals.
That night, that dark night when I might have been thirty seven or I might have been forty two, that long night when I was for reasons now lost left alone in the house, that night when I crept out to the sidewalk carrying those boxes, in the dark so no one would see me, no one could see what I was doing, no one could rescue these things I was abandoning.
The drawings. The stories. And the journals. I threw away all the journals. Years of journals. In an attempt, I only now recognize, an attempt to kill them. To kill parts of myself. All those journals, those simple spiral bound notebooks, the overwrought teenage prose, the insecure young man, the questions, the doubts, the steps across boundaries, out with the trash.
Then they were gone. And I forgot that night. I forgot the impetus, I forgot the feeling of relief at having them gone, I forgot the need to examine, to express, to expand. Until I couldn't forget any longer.
Truth is, it’s very painful for me to see myself carrying those boxes out to the street. I can't remember what I was thinking or why I was doing what I was doing, but I can remember the thickness of the night air. I can feel the weight of the boxes as I carried them down the walk. I can see the notebooks, sitting amongst the week's trash. I had killed something. Something alive, heart beating.
A writer stops writing. A writer stops writing stories and journals, a writer sends no more personal letters, a writer stops thinking about himself as a writer, a writer becomes only a reader. And eventually the writer throws away all of his writings. Until one night when he sits alone at his computer, on another warm evening, at age forty eight, living alone after years of living in a house with his wife and his children. The apartment, new and unfamiliar, feels empty. The phone, the phone which rang incessantly all those years in their house on the corner, is silent. He looks at his reflection in the dark window glass. His short graying hair, his narrow face, his slim frame. He isn’t making any plans and he isn’t making any decisions. And then he starts. He begins to tap out the story of his new life, and how he got there and where he might be going.