In the box: all the poems that he wrote when he went to Virginia Beach to be a writer; rented a motel room and set up his typewriter; got drunk; got drunk again. Years later, Bob says, I knew I was taking you down there for a drunk week. And that’s mostly all it was. But the poems had been pounded out on a Smith-Corona, the ribbon taken out of the rollers and re-rolled, the ink barely visible on the pages, like a mirage of a once mighty city, or like a tombstone rubbing, or like mist between his fingers. What’s he even doing up here in the attic anyway? He comes up here sometimes and he never knows what it’s all about. Opens up the box—a green Xerox company box that his father gave him where he keeps all of his writing. Once, he dragged out all the pages and notebooks and laid them in a pile. Then he put them away. There wasn’t any great epiphany. Just a lot of words filling up pages. Most of it he can barely stand to look at. But those poems from the beach. They’re awful, of course, just horrible, really, but they have energy, maybe because they had to be written in the brief time between when he woke up and when he started drinking. He only had a brief amount of time allocated to the poems and they all came out in a rush, as if they were just gathering there behind his eyelids or at the tips of his fingers, readying themselves. Okay, boys, we won’t have much time, get organized now and we’ll just get the hell out of here and onto the page. He must have driven the other folks in the motel crazy with the clacking of the keys. The women who cleaned his room asked him what he was working on. For that week, he’d been a minor celebrity at the motel. Word got around that he was a writer. Also, that he drank a lot and left his weed sitting out on the dresser. When he went to the beach, he took a copy of War and Peace and a towel. One day, a man walking down the street with his wife, two kids in strollers, a cooler, an umbrella, two shoulder bags, and two chairs looked at him and said, Man, your life is so simple. He’d shrugged his shoulders. Was it really simple? He’d been free but ignorant of freedom, just going to the beach to read Tolstoy. Just writing poems that he thought would mean something. Just drinking because that’s what writers did. Just being a writer because someone told him he was a natural. All of that’s in the box. He tells himself that one day before he dies, he’ll burn it all so no one else has to deal with it. Burning paper and ash will drift up and away. He’s not sure what will happen then.
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