If I Lose Her (Greg Joseph Daily) Online - Greg Joseph Daily

ONE

I was sixteen that afternoon I climbed the steps of my mother’s attic looking for a box to carry junk in to the Goodwill. In the light of the single bare bulb I leaned forward and tried to read labels like ‘memories’ that were scribbled and scratched through.

The first box was heavy with Christmas ornaments. The second and third were folded clothes I had never seen before. Then I nudged a box with no label that felt lighter, so I picked it up and set it in front of me. I pulled back the folded flaps, and there it was, like it had been waiting for me all along.

I reached down and gently touched the caramel-colored leather. The heavy metal buckles. The broad strap.

I lifted it out of the box.

I ran my finger along the outline of a monogram ‘C’ pressed into the leather of the front flap.

C?, I wondered. If I had thought carefully I might have realized whose it was, but I was more interested in what was inside. And since my mother and I respected each other’s business, I decided to carry it down to the kitchen and ask her about it rather than start rummaging through it on my own.

“Hey, did you find a box? We need to get going,” she said fiddling with her earring as she walked into the kitchen. Then she took a mug out of the cupboard and poured herself a cup of coffee.

“No, but I found this.”

Then she turned.

When she saw the bag all of the immediacy went out of her.

She smiled.

“I had almost forgot that was up there.”

“What is it?”

She touched it like it was an old friend. “It was your father’s.”

My eyes must have grown because she looked at me and touched my cheek.

“I was going to give it to you when you turned eighteen, but there’s no reason to wait. Why don’t I take the stuff to the Goodwill and you stay here.” Then she pulled me close, kissed my forehead and left.

I sat there for a while just looking at this pregnant leather bag. A part of me didn’t want to open it. Was it tools? Was it jewelry? Was it the reason he left? Mom said she was going to give it to me when I turned eighteen. Did dad leave it for me to have when I turned eighteen? The bag was only a little larger than a lunch box, but inside it was a vast amount of possibilities. Maybe there was a letter to me inside. Maybe a recording of some kind. Maybe a video.

I pulled it close to me.

If I opened it then I would know. I would know what was in it. I would also know what wasn’t. What if there wasn’t a letter? What if he hadn’t left it and hadn’t wanted me to have it? As long as I didn’t open it there was some kind of hope.

I worked the buckle that held the top flap shut. Then I lifted the flap.

The inside was padded and lined with canvas.

All I could see was a piled black strap, so I pulled on the black strap until a silver camera rose from the bag. It was cold. I set it aside and looked deeper. There was the faintest smell of something like cologne but softer. I found another lens, longer than the one on the camera, which I set aside as well.

Most of what was in the bag didn’t make much sense to me. Round pieces of glass of different colors in two plastic envelopes. Brushes. Cloth. A grey rubber bulb with a brush on the end that I squeezed, shooting air into my face.

The side pockets held three rolls of film, some cords, caps and a small flash. So far not what I was hoping to find. There was one pocket left, a small one zipped shut on the front of the case. I pulled on the zipper.

Inside were some folded receipts, a small printed manual for the flash and a tiny notebook held shut with a cracked rubber band.

I looked at each receipt. This one for film. That one for batteries. I leafed through the manual, which was nothing more than a manual. Then I pulled on the rubber band, which broke as I pulled it off. My heart sank as I saw that it only held hand-written notes on distances for flash and calculations for film speed and marks with f/’s that I didn’t understand. Then I found, tucked in