Pumping gas at the Get Go last week, I noticed that near – not in – the garbage bin was an empty can of Chunky soup and its pull-off lid, a used-up Right Guard roll-on deodorant stick, an empty can of Pringles (the regular kind), and a can of Lysol.
I imagined the items were left by someone traveling alone. Maybe a male in his early 20s? Eating Sirloin Burger soup from a can seems like a young man kind of thing to do. Consuming a can of Pringles only takes a few miles, but it’s takes a lot of miles to use up an entire stick of deodorant and a can of Lysol. Where was he going? Where had he been?
So many questions. So many possibilities.
I’m nebby by nature. (The Pittsburgh definition of nebby, not the Merrian-Webster one.) Especially when I see something like a gathering of used items alongside a garbage can at a gas station. It’s not “trash” when you’re curious, and wouldn’t you be curious, standing there holding the gas nozzle with nothing else to think about?
Years ago, I acquired a box of miscellaneous paper items from an estate auction. In it was this holiday card from the 1910s:
Except for the stain, it’s a pretty little thing. It’s even got a church on it. So serene, so peaceful. Snow, stars… I place it on my Christmas tree every year. But that’s only part of the reason I keep it. I keep it for the message inside:
The sender put quotes around and underlined the words “My dear” for emphasis, and wrote, using a dip pen, “To the prettiest girl I ever knew.” Awwww…so sweet, right? Clearly the sender is enamored by the girl and wishes only wonderful things for her.
Or does he?
I’m usually on the side of true love, and every year my mind explodes with sweet stories when I dig out this card. I’ve been partial to the one in which the two – the girl and the sender – were ships that passed in the night, and that the girl kept the card to remind her of a secret love that could never be.
This year, though, the story in my head has steered me in the direction of unrequited love or maybe something sinister. This year, I paid attention to the signature, and for the first time, I compared the letter “r” in the word “ever” to the squiggle after the M and I think it’s signed “Mr. D”.
I’d not noticed that before.
Hmmm…that feels weird. And it changes everything I thought of this simple Christmas card.
Unless it’s a pet name, “Mr.” infers distance or hierarchy in a relationship.
And now a Nabokov novel comes to mind…
“The best friend you have.” That’s a bold statement, even if it was true. I wouldn’t sign a letter telling a friend that I am the best friend they ever had.
But, OK, let’s assume things were different in the early twentieth century. Maybe Mr. D is an innocent character and is assuaging the girl’s fears and letting her know that he really is her best friend. Kind of like we used to do in junior high, maybe.
Nah… Mr. D/best friend? Now I’m hearing a Police song in my head.
Just one more step to the Stephen King Misery level. You’re the prettiest girl and I’m your best friend. Don’t forget it, “my dear.”
If any of these scenarios is true, why would Prettiest Girl keep a card like this from creeper Mr. D, only for someone to purchase it many years later?
The box of miscellaneous paper didn’t belong to Prettiest Girl; it belonged to Mr. D, who kept it all his life because Prettiest Girl was his obsession. He knew he couldn’t send it, so he kept it as a reminder. A reminder of what he could never have…
OK, I’m done! It’s your turn. Be nebby with me! Jump in with your own interpretation of either story. Creep us out or create a Hallmark movie scene. It’s your choice, your imagination. (And you can keep your story to yourself, too. I just hope you have some fun letting your mind go.)
And remember, “Don’t stand…don’t stand so…don’t stand so close to me…”