For David.

It is an odd day when you decide to photocopy your dead friend's letters to his daughter.

It was May when David gave me the bag. This 70s grey naughahyde looking thing, bursting at the seems with I don't know what. It wasn't heavy and so I the contents seemed likely to be clothes. He had left his old apartment and was temporarily staying in a furnished place. He asked me to store it for him.

I took the bag and chucked it by my door. Months passed and David was still without permanent housing. Periodically I would remind him I still had it, in case he forgot. He was seventy-one after all. I'm only thirty and I forget half the books I've loaned out to people. I would just casually tell him, "I still have your bag. Let me know when you need it."

I am, by nature, a curious person. Ask my mother. She will tell you the Byzantine measures she has resorted to in order to hide my Christmas presents. If you've left me alone in your apartment, the odds are I have poked in your medicine cabinet. Nosed in your drawers. Leave your journal in any kind of easily discovered place ( like a desk drawer) and I'll read it. If you have left me your bag to guard, I have taken a peek. But that grey bag sat by my door for half a year without so much a shake or a gentle probe.

Even when David was sick, I did not open the bag. Bland Lawyer remembered the bag when David got sick. "What's in it?" he asked. "I don't know. I don't feel right opening it." The word yet was implied, but not spoken. Bland Lawyer let the matter drop and went about stirring his tepid coffee.

But then David died.

Even then it wouldn't have occured to me to look in it. "Maybe," Nutreena, who had joined me to visit David, "maybe it has some of his sketchs and papers." His daughters had never bothered to visit him in the three months he languished in various hospital wards. David was a writer. If there were papers in the bag, could I trust them? Could I just hand over David's papers without so much as a look? Could I trust that perhaps those papers wouldn't vanish? Could I give away what I had left of David to these women I had never met? That they would do what was right by his writing? These women who seemed so little invested in their father?

I went home and opened the bag. A flashlight. A yellow cableknit sweater with a crewneck, favored by David, Oxford man that he was. A pair of shoes. A few library books. And then a great stack of papers in no discernible order. Letters to the Editor. Legal Documents. Photocopies of checks. Several drafts of three page stories. Letters to his daughters. Notes on an invention. Photocopied pages of books. None of the stories were dated, and all of them were written on computer making it impossible to know which draft was first, which was last. I sat and looked at the pile. The letters were also typed. Often there were several different drafts of one letter. Sometimes there was a date. Sometimes there was not. About 500 pages in all.

There quite a few books that are based on an individual suddenly finding himself in charge of a deceased friend's/associate's papers. From Lolita to the Sorrows of Young Werther to the less tradition Ravelstein in which the narrator finds himself writing a dying friend's biography while he is still alive albeit with a terminal illness, there is a romantic sheen to finding oneself the guardian of some great literary works. In reality, it is awful and awesome, likely to induce several runs to the bathroom to literally try to expell the sense of inferiority, the sense of "I am not the right person for this", the sense of "I am going to fail to do right by this reponsibility" and then you wipe your mouth and return to sorting the papers into various piles. After the piles are sorted, you organize them by date.

I set aside a set of the stories to photocopy, so that they would remain preserved, but also with the thought that I should submit them for posthumous publication. David was always saying he was going to look into such thing, yet his correspondences revealed he actually had an agent for his art and could have had one for his writing. Would it be a violation of wishes or the the culmination of them?

But the bag had been left in my care, and since there was no will, I suppose I could claim that David intended for me to have the contents of it, papers included. He insisted that I would be a great editor. Perhaps the bag was intended to teach me just such a lesson, by managing and organizing his work, finding an agent who would publish the stories in a small collection or in various magazines, I would embrace my latent talent.

But what of the letters? They were more like extensions of his stories. There was almost no personal detail. He spent most of his letters detailing little NY stories,a student driver too timid to push through pedestrian traffic marrooned at an intersection, the cat at his favorite coffee house, a conversation with a child in front of his favorite chocolate store. These vignettes might have prompted me to copy the papers as it was, but he wrote about films and books he read. He offered thoughtful analyses on court life in the 17th century.We talked many times about books, films,and histories, yet I could not remember many of the titles he recommended. And that is what prompted the photocopying. So that I, in finding these books and films, something I neglected when he was alive, I would still have David with me in someway. He could continue my education.

At the memorial, I handed one of his daughter's the bag. I had placed the papers, now organized, at the top. I have the copies of the letters and stories at home on my coffee table. When I handed her the bag, her eyes filled with tears. "Thank you" she said "I have so little from my father.Perhaps now I will write a book about him." I smiled looking at this woman with unwashed red hair and hazel eyes, this woman who had not called or visited for the three months her father lay slowly dying in a hospital, this woman who had only showed up after he died, having not seen him eyes glazed over, hands puffed with swelling, three blood soaked gauze bandages on the floor, the machines living for him, the inner workings of his body suddenly dependent on these external machines. She had not sat and held his hand when he was unable to talk or even blink. I had. I had dragged myself there not as often as I liked, but I had gone, and I had stood in the hallway after and cried. And even having sworn I would not go back, I could not go back and witness him, eyes filmed over with cataracts, his whole body pulsing with his heartbeat, I was preparing to return to the hospital the day his death was announced.I smiled at her without mentioning the photocopies, and poured myself another glass of red wine.

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