Exit strategy


He emptied out the contents of his drawers onto the bed and was surprised at how very little he had. Plaid boxer shorts very old and worn, the fabric thin and nearly transparent. Socks with holes. Old baseball cards of retired players he had no reason to save. Ratted t-shirts in various shades of faded tints and tones and a box of matches, half used. Folded papers, old parking and speeding tickets. His rejection letter from the publishing house, the only new item in the drawers. Seven keys of mysterious origin, a broken flashlight, little balls of dust and lint. Two pairs of wrinkled shorts, a checkbook, one long-sleeved t-shirt, a sweatshirt, an expired coupon for a free cup of coffee at Dunkin Donuts. Three condoms expired over a year ago. A stack of creased photos from his early twenties, the travels across state and country, camping trips and rock concerts, moments in various stages of inebriation with old friends he hadn’t seen or spoken to since. He leafed through the photos to one taken almost a decade ago, his last girlfriend, his last serious girlfriend, the last woman to care about him at all, and the photo nearly brought him to tears, not because it was a beautiful image even though it was, not because he missed her or longed for her even though he did a little, but because he realized how alone he was and had been, how long it had been since he’d been with a woman, shared his life with a woman, how long it had been since a woman cared for him, needed him in her life. He placed the photo back into the empty chest of drawers, a token revelation for the next person, an image from his past to cause whoever opened the drawer and saw the picture to pause, at least for a second, and imagine who was the smiling woman with red hair and freckles sitting on the hood of his truck, what her voice sounded like first thing in the morning, her fragrance on moonlit summer evenings. He tried to remember these things and couldn’t. He fit everything that he didn’t throw away into two duffel bags and zipped them, walking out in the rainy night to his beat-up pickup. He turned and looked at his apartment for the last time, such a small and dark little place, and got into the truck, driving out and away from that town, not looking back, his life and memories contained in his mind but also in those little black bags on the seat next to him.

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