I know this woman. She’s a story keeper. Her hair has gone white now, but right away you would notice the snapping light in her eyes. Her skin is crinkled and grey, and her hands are covered in spots. The joints are knobby and arthritic, but she still writes. She’s never used a computer. Her tales are written in India ink on ivory sheets of unlined paper, and when she has finished a story, she puts it in a file folder. She doesn’t use tabs, so if there’s a tab on a file, she’ll cut it off. Then she’ll carefully tape the sides so the story is securely deposited. That’s what she calls her stories. Security deposits.
She makes every file look special. Sometimes she clips pictures from magazines and glues them onto the front. Sometimes she uses fancy stickers of flowers and birds, or she’ll run decorative tape along the edges. Then, using a calligraphy marker, she’ll write out the title of the story.
For example, the title might be: The Homecoming Wren
Underneath the title, she’ll write what it’s for, as if it were medicine.
For the heart that is getting disconnected from the earth.
Then she’ll tuck it away in her dresser drawers.
Two years ago, when she moved to the senior’s residence, she had three dressers, and the drawers were full.
She has never published anything. But if you visit her and you’ve been talking a while, she might excuse herself for a moment, and go into her bedroom. A few minutes later, she’ll come out with a story in hand, and tell you it’s just for you.
Yours to keep.
Since many of her friends are getting older now, they are giving their stories to friends and family members, because medicine for one is medicine for all.
Some of her stories have been illustrated and treasured.
Some of her stories have been shelved and forgotten.
Most of them are gone now, like feathers to the wind.
Just the other day, the movers came and carried away the second of her three dressers.
Soon they will take the third, she tells me. There’s only one bureau left to go “before my flight arrives!”
I wrote this very short story after reflecting on the question, “Why do I write?” With so many words in the world, why produce more? What part of me is resistant, or maybe doesn’t even care about how big my “following” is, as long as the right stories go to the right people? Those reflections gave rise to “The Story Keeper.”
The featured image is a fresco of the Greek poet Sappho (630-570 B.C.E)