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Items unclaimed after August 1st will be recycled or donated to charity. They seem to weather it without permanent physical or psychological damage.
Three of us — Alice, Connie and I — had been in a far corner, doing email on our phones to pass the time. “Could I have accidentally thrown it away when we cleared our trays? Alice watched in stunned silence as I raced to the trash bin in the conference room and began dumpster-diving, a 60-year-old university administrator, head down, clawing through crumpled napkins, greasy potato chip bags, and half-finished sandwiches.
Meeting finally finished and Connie gone, Alice and I dumped our lunch trays and returned to our things at the table. When I came up for air, phone-less, Alice suggested that maybe Connie had scooped it up with her things. And home was 60 miles away, so I couldn’t just go there and come back. I ran back up and again scanned the surface of my desk. The post office had been my last stop, and I had used my phone to find an address! Back down the steps, I grabbed my keys and headed out the door — no coat, no glasses, no license. The carrier came in to collect the mail from the big mailbox just as the clerk returned, shaking her head.
This piece feels much more intimate, more like one of your short stories. I would in fact call this piece memoir as opposed to a personal essay.
Yes, those two pieces are from very early on in terms of my development in writing nonfiction. Human motives are very convoluted and hard to clarify in terms of what is true or false. True feeling is often hidden under superficial or more attractive feelings; selfish motives are often wound up with truly altruistic ones. To me a personal essay might use your own experience, even in an intimate way, but the personal experience is secondary to the topic of the essay, which you’re using to explain your point of view on a subject. You once wrote in an essay about Nabokov that “an accepting and at times dispassionate approach to feeling allows for an understanding of both tenderness and cruelty.” Is it strange to use that approach in writing about your own life and your own motivations?
You’re strong—they probably couldn’t get you, but they might have gotten your cat.” And her husband, who is first-generation, it irritated him to hear about it, but he did, at his mother’s behest, do a counter curse or protection ritual. I was becoming more aware of the realities of limitations of our relationship.
And also there were other things that are too personal to talk about.
But it has happened only twice to me, and I haven’t gotten used to the tremor of terror that courses through the body — like the burning sensation of radioactive dye injected for an angiogram.
It flares across the collarbone, around the heart, over the stomach, and down into the groin.
If someone told me a story about a cat, it wouldn’t occur to me to have an opinion on what happened. Then I started calling shelters, and finding out there are these services, very expensive ones that help find lost animals. For example, there’s my sister, a sensible, fairly traditional person, very intelligent but fairly conventional in how she sees reality.
I was telling her about what happened, but instead of talking common sense to me, she began to tell me about her mother-in-law who played a card game with these women who cursed her.