Returning is equivalent to remembering. The two are synonyms, inseparable brothers, rather conjoined twins sharing one heart, big enough to pump enough blood to both semantic bodies.
Returning involves repetition, and as it happens, having returned we must go through cupboards and drawers the content of which we do not easily recall. They demand a thorough exploration that leads us to the rediscovery of something we once knew, thought, felt and had. Returning is an exercise of memory, a prophylactic technique against Alzheimer’s disease.
Inside drawers and cupboards, in wait to prey us, lie old cookie or shoe boxes in which our memories play hide and seek. Little stones and shells picked up from we do not know where anymore, bracelets and pendants that we have not used for as long as we are of sound mind. Bottle caps, lighters, inkless pens, empty notebook covers, envelopes full of photos, train and plane and bus tickets, concert tickets, bunches of keys that close and open forgotten doors. Many times we find other, smaller boxes, with even more unexpected memories, our past scattered in geometric Russian dolls. Everything had originated in a space and time that we do not longer remember, that we struggle to locate, squeezing our brains, kneeling on the floor as if praying, with one of the many souvenirs in our hand, our eyes closed in order to see better the details of that distant context, a short spiritual trip that is reproduced with each stone, matchbox, urban photograph and broken hand fan that surprises us from the drawers.
This is just the beginning. Later it is time for the letters, old, crumpled letters that reading upon reading age us prematurely as they chronicle our past youth, when we were still naïve and held lofty ideals we do not longer recognize, ideals we forgot unaware. The worst thing is that we do not have the letters written by our own hands, but only their replies or letters that compelled our reply, of which we know nothing anymore – maybe we would find some telegraphic lines written in the margins, or on pieces of paper, if we are very lucky maybe an entire draft we were too lazy to throw away. However, at times it is impossible to match our lines with their corresponding letter, because the day we wrote them we did not care to put them in the same envelope of the letter that motivated them. That, I insist, if we get lucky; normally we do not have any proof of anything we wrote – we can only imagine ourselves reading the letters while we conjure up the self we now believe we must have been at the time. But there is no guarantee, our selves exist always in the present and not in the past. Nevertheless, we try harder to fulfill our role as magicians invoking ghosts, we try to evoke what when where and how, following a logical order that might help focusing the nebula: when did we receive the letter, where did we read it, if we kept it and went to a park where to open it calmly, or if jittery and shaky we could not resist it and we opened it in the elevator, failing thrice to open the door because we did not want to take away our eyes from the sheets of paper to look at the keyhole, closing the door with our feet striking it as it was a soccer ball. Or did we kept it closed until we entered our room, the letter burning in our hands, and we collapsed on the bed to open and devour it? Do we remember?
Maybe, now that you re-read it, kneeling on the floor, biting your lip until the memories bleed.
However, they do not make any sense anymore, these letters, they are only blood gone mouldy. We try to find their meaning but instead we give them a new one, not the one they had, not the one our past selves found, but a completely new one according to who we are now, to this present self which is the only one we know. And we go on re-reading old letters and putting them again back on their envelopes, leaving them exactly as they were before, because there is no other order but that disorder, box within box within drawer within cupboard. And there they will be every time we return, because we keep them, sometimes we are tempted to burn them but we never do, because if those letters never existed, we could never return.