“Any object, intensely regarded, may be a gate of access to the incorruptible eon of the gods..” James Joyce, Ulysses
In the corner of the garage, forgotten under a tarp thrown down in 1996 to protect the boxes beneath from the rain edging its way under hail-damaged asphalt roof shakes, a box.
A box- a box filled once in the 1950s with oranges from “Sunny Florida” later sealed with now dried and flaking masking tape, forgotten..first under the tarp, before that next to a pile of lumber intended to build a never-built back porch, and before that because it was just a box that would get moved later, sometime. Maybe tomorrow.
Now, fifty years after the last orange was peeled and eaten, the move finally begins with the lifting of the tarp frozen by dust and time into the shape of a small foothill sloping gradually to the flat twelve inch high mesa of a box top. The tape cracks away in the confetti of long expired glue, and the lid is lifted.
Lifted.. and the air inside is drawn in a gentle vacuum from the cardboard tomb in which it has been sealed since Eisenhower was president, since Sputnik was a funny sounding word, since young men stifled nightmares of bodies floating in the waters off France and Bataan, since nobody had ever seen a color television. Before assassinations, long before the Bicentennial, long long before anyone knew what/who/when an Ayatollah was..
And inside, an envelope (brown, manila, creased, thick) labeled in pencil, “Edith Cross, City” with 55 cents worth of various blue and red postage stamps postmarked “Buy War Bonds, 1944.” Two little cardboard buttons around which, in a figure-8 twist, a string keeps the flap of the envelope closed, officially perhaps. Unwinding, the long-untouched string breaks, its work completed, and the envelope is gently torn just enough to lift the flap and inside..
A flag, trifolded redwhiteblue stars whitehemmed metalgrommets. The love of Edith’s life? 1944, D-Day? Edith’s father? A muddy trench in a Flanders field, sent by executors of an estate a half century ago to the younger generation for safekeeping?
The air of the envelope, older even than the air of the orange box, wafts through the stale air of the garage, over the canvas foothills, upwards toward a window rarely opened where the pale sunlight of an otherwise quiet summer afternoon spills across cardboard shadows onto an unmarked grave.
Oh, say can you see..?
David B.Weber, 2010