The old man found his old briefcase in the shed. It had a combination lock and he wondered for a while what the combination might be. It was his birth date.
In the case there were a number of poems that would embarrass anyone if they were printed but there was a pile of letters held together with a perished rubber band. There were old bank statements for an account that no longer existed in a bank that no longer existed and there were letters from friends overseas and they were old. But mostly they were bank statements so he threw the whole pile into the rubbish bin. He was careless, his aim was sloppy, the letters hit the side of the bin, the rubber band broke and half the letters ended up in the bin and half on the floor. As he gathered them together one seemed to be stuck to another. He turned it over and on the back was one small word, “Erena”. With a heart at the end.
He didn’t open the letter. Not then.
Erena was the girl who typed the letters he dictated when he was an Articled Clerk working in Collins Street.
He sat in his chair in the shed with the bank statements lying on the floor and poured himself a glass of whisky and closed his eyes.
I think Erena was in love with me, and I think I was in love with Erena but we worked together and in those days the unwritten rules were obeyed with a good deal of seriousness. So we had never said very much that was outside our working life.
I told Erena how I had been brought up in the bush and lived in a log shack and she was quite fascinated.
Erena told me that she was from Georgia and I proved myself an idiot by saying she didn’t have an American accent and she explained quite carefully that she meant Georgia in the USSR. Odessa to be exact. Her family was what they called White Russians and after the revolution the family had moved to Vladivostok as far from European Russia as you can get. She told me stories that made me feel ashamed that I had lived in an old shack in absolute freedom while she and her family were struggling to stay alive day by day for years.
It was a long story and we talked and talked when we should have been working and sometimes we had to stay back in the office to catch up on work that should have been completed. One night we kissed and she burst into tears and ran out of the office and went home. And I had absolutely no idea what was going on. No idea at all.
About a week later she told all the girls in the typing pool that she had got a job as an air hostess with Ansett Airways and was leaving on Friday.
On Friday all the girls in the typing pool had a little coffee-and-cake-afternoon-tea sort of thing and then she went around the office saying goodbye and she came into my office and shook hands, said goodbye and turned and went.
And I ran up the stairs and onto the roof, ten stories up, and looked over the edge and saw her walking out of the building. And I missed her. That was the end and after a while I got on with my life and pushed her from my mind.
That was until yesterday.
He opened her letter. It was dated five weeks after she had left the office. She told him she didn’t like flying, she had resigned and she asked him to pick her up from the Airport on the next Saturday – she had a lot she wanted to tell him. He closed his eyes again.
I opened her letter fifty-two years too late. I wonder where she is now and I wonder how she got home from the airport.
I wonder about a lot of things.