Life’s Index Cards

A thought provoking piece I came across when digging through some old files.

In that place between wakefulness and dreams, I found myself in
a room. There were no distinguishing features save for the one
wall covered with small indexcard files. They were like the ones
in libraries that list titles by author or subject in
alphabetical order. But these files, which stretched from floor
to ceiling and seemingly endlessly in either direction, had very
different headings. As I drew near the wall of files, the first
to catch my attention was one that read “People I Have Liked”. I
opened it and began flipping through the cards. I quickly shut
it, shocked to realize that I recognized the names written on
each one.

And then without being told, I knew exactly where I was.

This lifeless room with its small files was a crude catalog
system for my life. Here were written the actions of my every
moment, big and small, in a detail my memory couldn’t match. A
sense of wonder and curiosity, coupled with horror, stirred
within me as I began randomly opening files and exploring their
content. Some brought joy and sweet memories; others a sense of
shame and regret so intense that I would look over my shoulder
to see if anyone was watching.

A file named “Friends” was next to one marked “Friends I Have
Betrayed”. The titles ranged from the mundane to the outright
weird. “Books I Have Read”, “Lies I Have Told”, “Comfort I Have
Given”, “Jokes I Have Laughed At”. Some were almost hilarious
in their exactness: “Things I’ve Yelled at My Brothers.” Others
I couldn’t laugh at: “Things I Have Done in My Anger”, “Things I
Have Muttered Under My Breath at My Parents”. I never ceased to
be surprised by the contents. Often there were many more cards
than I expected. Sometimes fewer than I hoped.

I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the life I had lived.
Could it be possible that I had the time in my 30 years to write
each of these thousands or even millions of cards? But each card
confirmed this truth. Each was written in my own handwriting.
Each signed with my signature.

When I pulled out the file marked “Songs I Have Listened To”, I
realized the files grew to contain their contents. The cards
were packed tightly, and yet after two or three yards, I hadn’t
found the end of the file. I shut it, shamed, not so much by the
quality of music, but more by the vast amount of time I knew
that file represented.

When I came to a file marked “Lustful Thoughts”, I felt a chill
run through my body. I pulled the file out only an inch, not
willing to test its size, and drew out a card. I shuddered at
its detailed content. I felt sick to think that such a moment
had been recorded.

An almost animal rage broke on me. One thought dominated my
mind: “No one must ever see these cards! No one must ever see
this room! I have to destroy them!” In an insane frenzy I
yanked the file out. Its size didn’t matter now. I had to empty
it and burn the cards. But as I took it at one end and began
pounding it on the floor, I could not dislodge a single card. I
became desperate and pulled out a card, only to find it as
strong as steel when I tried to tear it. Defeated and utterly
helpless, I returned the file to its slot. Leaning my forehead
against the wall, I let out a long, self-pitying sigh.

And then I saw it.

The title bore “People that I Have Taught About Allah”. The
handle was brighter than those around it, newer, almost unused.
I pulled on its handle and a small box not more than three
inches long fell into my hands. I could count the cards it
contained on one hand.

And then the tears came. I began to weep. Sobs so deep that the
hurt started in my stomach and shook through me. I fell on my
knees and cried. I cried out of shame, from the overwhelming
shame of it all. The rows of file shelves swirled in my
tear-filled eyes. No one must ever, ever know of this room.

I must lock it up and hide the key.


2 thoughts on “Life’s Index Cards

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s