I used to burn everything. Photographs, letters, any memento from a relationship, once that relationship was over. I had to use lighter fluid a couple of times because the clothes wouldn’t catch fire.
For a while, after graduate school, people had a reprieve. They wrote so beautifully that I couldn’t bring myself to burn their letters. Two years ago, I read through the stack and one group of them had been written to a girl who never existed. Not the girl I used to be, but some girl I never was. They didn’t even warrant burning, but were torn to pieces instead.
However, on going through my files this weekend, I realized I have every draft of my thesis, and my first novel. Dozens and dozens of variations for a single poem. I have versions on floppy, and versions on CD, and paper copies. I have boxes of my own work, but no love letters.
I’m of severals minds about this. I know my relationships happened, and what they meant, the same way I know that I went to San Gimignano on a painfully beautiful day when I was twenty-one. I don’t need a record of my past to remember it. But that isn’t necessarily the point, memory.
The truth is, documentation is harsh. My reflections now are kinder to my past lovers, because no record exists to contradict the past as I write it. Don’t you see? Now we might be anything.