There was a box, a boot box, large and dusty and familiar, beneath the bed of a girl in love with being in love. There was a ribbon around it, saved over from a gift from a special boy, a basket of soaps and lotions and candies. She had almost forgotten where the ribbon had come from by now, but still it was important, because if it wasn't important, she wouldn't have saved it.
Inside the box were all the various love letters she had ever received from all the ones who had thought to write them to her, and every one was precious at the time, and never had she thrown a single one away. There were some which had scared her a little, but she kept those too. Some had merely warmed her rather moist impression of herself, and were reassuring in their way. There were just a few down in that box though that were very private and very special, and these were the ones that she went to sometimes, late at night, to dig out and read and dream and weep and moan a little after the lights were out and no one would hear.
Years went by. The box aged with her, traveled with her too, from house to house, always staying under whichever bed she slept in. She rarely read from it anymore, though she would occasionally drop in a movie ticket stub, a matchbook, a backstage pass, photos of good times, little reminders of nice evenings, special nights. Sometimes then she would sift through it like a box of leaves, and maybe unfold one or another and let her eyes pass over the familiar words, the color of the paper, the old folds, and then let it resume its practiced shape and replace the lid of the box with a sigh.
In time, she met a young man whom she thought she loved. He began to sleep in the space above the box, in the girl's bed. Night after night, every night he and the girl made love and slept, and finally it began to seem as if he would never leave, and she was happy.
One morning he woke up and couldn't find his shoes. He started looking all over the place, by the front door, by the couch, by the bed. Under the bed.......
"what's in the box?" he asked.
"Oh....just letters and stuff......".
He looked at her then, clearly, then dropped the bedspread down and stood and leaned and kissed her and went to work.
All day she thought about the box, and the look he had given her. Some day when she wasn't at home she knew he might decide to investigate. Maybe he was the beginning of a whole new life, maybe those old letters and snapshots would hurt him if he read them, should she just empty the box? But then he would wonder why it was missing.....
Finally, she decided.
She pulled out the box and went through it, removing all the most special letters, the ones with the heat and the promises, being careful not to look at the handwriting, recklessly sorting aside the warmest memories, the fondest dreams, the wickedest fantasies. The photos, every handsome boy, every kiss caught in a moment and a flash, all set aside with a grim tremble and a blind resolve to do this thing before she thought about it one minute longer.
She carried these into the kitchen, raised the lid of the trashcan and ever so tenderly laid them on top of the piles of banana peels, coffee grounds, papers and such. Gathering up the edges of the plastic bag, she tied it off and carried it out to the alley where the big cans were overflowing, waiting for the pick-up the next morning.
Back inside she slid what was left of the box back under her bed, lighter and a little bit hollow. She felt better she thought. Maybe she didn't. She couldn't tell, maybe she felt nothing at all.
Hour after hour she waited for him. Suppertime, then 10:00, then midnight, then 2:30, and she worried and she wondered where he could be?
And then she heard two sounds at the same time; the rumble of the morning garbage truck, and the front door opening.
There he stood with a look in his eye she hadn't seen before. Also a duck of the head and a shoulder hunch he'd never had. He wasn't looking at her right. He was radiating guilt.
And then everything shifted in her, just a sickening drop, and all of a sudden her head started humming or something and he was saying something but she missed it and then her hearing started coming back............ and all she heard was a sound like wind in her ears and that garbage truck grinding down her alley with all her treasures, gone and gone and gone.