THE PAPER TIGER

paper tigerFall. I decide it’s time to do a deep purge in my house. First, I tackle my bureau drawers and then my closet.

Oh, god, there’s my great grandmother’s wedding dress. What do I do with that? I’ll send it to my great niece. She can put it in a time capsule for her children.

I find a dusty, but still good, velvet-covered riding helmet. When was the last time I went horseback riding? Don’t ask. I pack it into one of the twenty-five big plastic bags jammed with stuff for my local thrift shop. Another five full-to-bursting bags end up in my garbage bins. I’m sure I could get rid of more, but that’s the best I can do for now.

My office is next but I resist it for days. The Paper Tiger is growling in there waiting for battle: my old plays, screenplays, a novel or two, and lots of odd writing. I knew that picking through these things would bring up uncomfortable feelings of some losses and disappointments. I dreaded starting.

I slump into the room and begin by taking out an old fax/copier and a box full of cables that connect to god knows what. No problem letting those go. I stand on a stool and start taking things off a top shelf. Phone books from 2010—an easy toss. An old map. I fling it to the floor. Then, I pull out a big, three-ring notebook. It’s a 177 page memoir called Living without Plans written by a dear friend Anna. I haven’t looked at it in years. Opening it, I read the first lines: I have cancer. What a fucking relief. The cancer is treatable. I was clinically depressed for a year and thought I was dying…

I take a deep breath. The treatment wasn’t successful. She did die from it.

A deep sadness draws me down off the stool, and I walk with the book into my bedroom. So many memories of our times together flash through my mind—the afternoon when I let her be the first one to read my play about sisters called Juno’s Swans. I sat in the room with her, relieved every time she laughed.

“I LOVE it!” she screamed when she finished. “I want to play Cary!”

I was horrified. “Oh, no, Anna! I wrote that part for myself!”

She kept insisting, so when I scheduled a workshop of the play, I relented and let her play that part while I played the conservative sister which was probably better for me. I’m glad I gave in. Anna was brilliant and hilarious in the part. We had a great time together.

When did she die? Oh, god. Almost twenty years ago.

I sag down onto my bed. My office neglected, I read the book. It’s very well-written. How can I throw this away? I pray that this isn’t the only copy. I’m finding it hard enough to let go of my own old scripts and writing that will probably never get published, but this may be strangely more difficult.

As I put it down, I get the idea to look up her daughter on Facebook. I had tried to find her once through the white pages to no avail. I find her and send a “friend” request. I haven’t heard from her yet, but I will keep the book until, hopefully I do.

I put it back on the shelf in my office.

The paper tiger is a hard one to tame.