Index card

My 2023 challenge is to take 
a random piece of paper 
from my stash of ephemera 
and write a short piece every day.
#randomsbitsofpaper

This post, #randomsbitsofpaper 001, is quite dark, but also quite true. It connects a few dots in a random, unexpected way.

Index cards are what I used decades ago to record terminology as part of my work as a translator. I would carry the last five or so that I had made with me. That way, I always had something to fill that vacant state of mind brought about by having to stand in queues in the bank or as an antidote to visually monotonous doctors’ waiting rooms. I also carried a couple of blank cards just in case I had to note something down, urgently, like. I took to using them for everything, including jotting down quotations from books as I read them.

A few short weeks ago, I spent a day with a second cousin, her husband and family who were in Portugal for few days. We had a lovely time, exploring a few beaches on the Algarvian coast, during which time I managed to get my walking boots and socks soaked by oncoming waves. One of her sons drew a picture in the sand with a stick. We collected shells and pebbles in an uncomplicated way, caught up on family news, and I spoke of how I had played with her as a little girl on the day I became the mostly absent Godmother to her younger brother. Such are the vagaries of the Zimbabwean diaspora. We figured out that the last time this second cousin of mine and I had seen each other was at the funeral of the wife of one of her uncles/my cousins. She had died in a tragic car accident. We moved on, and spoke of many things in our lives in the intervening 25 years.

It was only when I got home after our day of touring that I realised I had left my hiking jacket in the back of my cousin’s car. An uncharacteristic thing for me to do. She was going on to Austria for a week’s skiing the very next morning, and I knew for a fact that it was a good, warm, weatherproof garment. The jacket had been a gift to me about ten years previously. A gift in the sense that someone else was getting rid of it, and I just happened to be present at the time. I phoned my cousin and said she could have it—it was clean—and if that did not appeal to her, she was free to give it away to a person of her choosing. Sometimes, it is time to let go of things. This was one of those times, I thought.

A few days later, I was tidying my stuff. I managed a bag of clothes and a bag of books which I duly took to the local charity shop. I also bunged all sorts of random bits of paper into two plastic cartons, and shoved them on a shelf under the stairs to deal with later.

One index card did not make it into the plastic cartons. I found it by chance the next day among the debris on my desk. On the reverse, it had five Bible references beneath which, in brackets, were the words “[Cousin’s wife’s] funeral.” A few days after that, the man who gave me the blue hiking jacket, who had suffered a stroke and had been poorly ever since, passed away.

©2023 Allison Wright

5 thoughts on “Index card

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  1. I’m not even sure what to make of those events! Were they coincidences? Do coincidences exist? Was your ownership of the jacket really keeping its previous owner alive? I suppose as humans we tell ourselves that a lot more things are linked than really are. (Or, on the contrary, we fail to see that the world is vastly different, and works along very different lines, to what we tell ourselves with our modern, scientific approach!)

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    1. I see now that I left out a connection from my post; the jacket originally belonged to someone who hailed from the same parts of the world as my second cousin and I and was made in one of those countries. Whether I retrieved the jacket or not would not have made a difference to the recently departed, except that I thought of him quite a lot in the few days before he died, and I like to think that he sensed that somehow. As to the existence of coincidences, to me, it is a rather primitive way in which we ascribe grand meaning to otherwise unconnected and possibly trivial occurrences in an attempt to make sense of disparate elements. I had no independent memory that I had noted down chapter and verse of the biblical references the priest at the funeral had made, but there it was on my desk, as described above. Sometimes we make notes to record things that are happening or have just happened. I am beginning to think that we do it not for posterity but as an antecedent for something our future selves might need to know or realise in greater depth.
      I rather like your idea, though, Jane, as a thread in a plot of a short story. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, E! The concept of synchronicity reminds me about a book on the matter by Deepak Chopra (Ihave forgotten the title) I was reading on a night train in the Netherlands in 2005. One of the lines in the book (in reference to life’s journey) was “Imagine you are on a train…” 🙂

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