The Knife

About 25 years ago I was good friends with a co-worker named Leslie who around 1987 gave me a Swiss army pocketknife for Christmas—a thoughtful, unexpected present. A couple-three years later, though, she and I had a fight about some things I did while I was drunk one night, and she cut me off with extreme prejudice. I haven’t seen her since then, but not only did I hang onto the knife, I kept it on my coffee-table, first all through my time in my last apartment and then again all through my time in this one, using it again and again and again to open things and whatever. Then, about five years ago, my landlady remodeled my bathroom and some of the plumber’s stuff inevitably spilled over into my already cluttered livingroom for a couple days. When he finished and went away I didn’t notice anything different until about a week later, when I picked the knife up to open something and I noticed the little Swiss army pocketknife logo was missing from it—and realized what I had in my hand was a common cheap red pocketknife that the plumber had somehow swapped out for Leslie’s knife. In my head I went through the whole scenario of calling my landlady and having her make Mr. Lee drive back here from God knows where, all to return a gift from someone who doesn’t even like me anymore, and I decided to just skip it and struggle through life with a plain red emotionally-unadorned pocketknife. And that’s what I did. But I swear, there wasn’t a single, solitary time, out of the scores of occasions I’ve used that nothing little knife since then, that I didn’t feel some embers of upset and resentment about losing Leslie’s gift.

And so we come to last Saturday, when I went into the kitchen to check out how much packing tape I had in the house. (Answer: none, but I’ve gotten really good with a tape-gun in the meantime.) I was digging around in the utility drawer, home to myriad tangled extension cords and double-A batteries past their expiration date, and I was trying to dig a little deeper when I realized that what I was holding in my hand was Leslie’s Swiss army pocketknife. I have no idea how it got there; I mean, over all those years I hadn’t just kept it on the coffee-table, I’d kept it on the same particular corner of the coffee-table. Anyway, I’m glad it’s back (and I hope it’s glad to be back), even if I can’t retrieve the psychic energy I wasted on it lo these many years. My apologies to Mr. Lee, and to Leslie, too.

(December 4, 2013)


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