Fingers press the stories insistently into the keyboard. Sometimes gently, or sarcastically, or desperately weaving something that happened into a wordpicture that my smile – or yours – will find in some time hence. Sometimes finding a story is hard. Sometimes finding it is easy, but recalling it is harder. Memory fades and few stories remain untarnished under time’s gentle and persistent breath. Other times they are as close as the ring that brushes the space bar. A gentle discomfort whose value keeps it close.
It’s silver, from Aswan and has a pharaoh and papyrus motif that has probably been stamped out a thousand times and sold to travelers, tourists and every shade between. It’s an unremarkable ring. Unremarkable in every respect but circumstance. I bought it on the first of January. My second night in Aswan as a long-dreamed, planned and feared journey was drawing to a close. That ring represents something. It always will.
They are a world not simply of stories, but of places and ways of being. Reminders of different people in different corners of this place I call my life.
Sometimes it’s in good company. Near my bedside is a box with dozens of tangled, dust-scented bracelets. There are some whose stories I can no longer recall. Others whose stories I will never forget. One fashioned from twisted brass and steel. It’s uncomfortable sometimes and steel doesn’t bend well. It never flexes, though I continually try. The first time I held it, I was climbing atop a cattle truck in Northern Kenya. I would not be the same person climbing down two days later.
There is a bracelet of brown string, securing a carved whalebone button and held together by a bead at the bottom. I’ve almost lost it more times than I can remember. I’ve found it that many times too. It was a gift from my brother when he returned from Hokkaido and I’ve worn it on every journey of mine since.
I have a worn leather bracelet from Laos. Old-book brown with a dirty green string and a token with a question mark in its center. That question mark answered so much. So it came with and has ever since. It’s grown tatty as the string becomes dirtier and the leather softer. But the question mark shines. As demanding as it has always been.
I have a necklace. Or rather a thin piece of leather on which lie a ring and a key. The ring was fashioned by hand in Senegal and has atop it a sealed metal bubble whose contents I’ll probably never know. “Protective magic” it was explained to me – and it’s done a pretty good job over the years. The key – now smooth, tiny and caked in polished rust – found me. I was outside the sleeping, abandoned sanctuary of the oldest Presbyterian church in South Africa. I think I might have been looking for something and received a key instead.
These and more forged, found and crafted memories live in that box. They are a world not simply of stories, but of places and ways of being. Reminders of different people in different corners of this place I call my life. Ways of remembering them and myself in the noise and tumult that each new day brings. Each is a story worn with love, brought a little into the new story I write each day and the grand story I’ll be writing for years. Some are magic, others have stories.
All remind me that sometimes a spell is right atop your breathing. The truth of what you are capable of gently brushing a spacebar.