When he started writing me letters (real letters, not emails--he didn't own a computer), he said (and wrote) often about how they helped him think in a different way. He was a convert to the therapeutic nature of writing and he said he owed that to me. He repaid that debt by nagging me about my own writing, too, asking me in nearly every phone call, "Did you write today? Even fifteen minutes a day would make such a big difference to you."
It wasn't until seven or eight months after his death that I found out that he himself had been keeping a journal. A mutual friend whose family was close with Mr. High School's told me about it. She said his parents had found it among his things and that his father had taken it out in the woods during hunting season (one of their father-son activities) and read it through. She said after reading the journal, his father had felt closer to Mr. High School and more at peace with things than he had in a very long time. She even said she knew I would want to know about the journal because she assumed it was my influence that had led him to begin it.
She gave me an amazing gift in that phone call, of course. But also a weird--and wholly unintentional--burden: the idea that there was some intimate part of Mr. High School out there that a relatively impartial third party thought I was partly responsible for and that I would never, ever have access to.
I didn't get around to recording that conversation in my own journal for more than a year. Eight days later, I had the dream recorded in tonight's Spiral Notebook entry.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
The dream was vague and hazy and Mr. High School himself never actually put in an appearance. A group of us--some people from his life and some from mine (I only clearly remember Little Sister)--were at his house and everyone was digging through his things and I was very distressed by this invasion of his privacy--everyone else was sure he wouldn't be coming back, but I wasn't so sure. I knew he would be furious at us all if/when he came back. At the same time, my curiosity about the articles of his intimate life was damned near overpowering.
Just before the dream ended, Little Sister handed me a spiral notebook full of pages in his handwriting with loose sheets of paper sticking out of it in all directions. I somehow understood that by accepting it, I would also be admitting to myself and everyone else that he was really gone. In that weird way of dreams, I felt sure that not only was receiving the notebook a signal that I accepted the fact of his disappearance, but I was somehow responsible for it by taking the notebook. Instead of merely acknowledging an existing truth, I was causing the outcome of Mr. High School's death--or at least his continuing failure to reappear.
I took the book anyway.