A life long lived is filled with reminders of days gone by. Some are housed exclusively in the mind, while others can be found gathering dust in closets or garages or attics. It was in the latter where Edna found one such reminder, and the discovery brought her both joy and sadness.
“Gilly, look what I found in that old chest.”
The leather-faced old man with the coke bottle glasses didn’t even have the courtesy to look up from his newspaper. “What you got there?” he asked, more as a conditioned response than in any genuine interest.
“It’s your heart, Gilly. You haven’t actually lost it. It was just hidden in your chest in the attic.” The old woman let out a small chuckle. “Your heart is in your chest. Get it? The chest in the attic.”
“What the hell are you talking about, woman? Can’t you see I’m reading my paper? You know I hate to be interrupted while I’m reading.”
“Forget it,” the old woman muttered. “It doesn’t matter anymore anyway.”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Gilbert said as he put down his paper. “What did you find?”
Edna knew her husband was just trying to placate her, but she had been taught by years of silence to grasp the conversations when they came. It would be a while before the next opportunity arose.
“It’s the first box of candy you ever bought me,” she replied, handing the old red box to her husband.
“It’s empty.” He said, after he wiped the dust off using a handkerchief he pulled out of his back pants pocket.
“It’s empty now, you old fool, but sixty years ago it was full of the best chocolates I have ever tasted. You gave it to me outside the movie theater.”
“I remember. It was actually our first real date. We got something to eat at Larry’s Diner and then headed to the theater. What movie did we see?”
“Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Don’t you remember? You sang ‘Moon River’ to me every day for a month.”
“I did, didn’t I? If I remember correctly— I embarrassed the hell out of you. You kept begging me to stop.”
“I did ask you, but I have a secret. I actually loved it. You had such a nice voice.”
“You don’t sing anymore.”
Gilbert looked down at the red heart- shaped box in his hand. “I don’t know if I ever told you this, but I borrowed the money from my dad. I told him I needed to give it to you on that very day. He asked why it was so important. It told him was Valentine’s Day, but he had forgotten. He laughed when I reminded him, and he gave me the money.”
“Your dad bought it?”
“No, I repaid him that Friday when I got my paycheck. I had forgotten all about that, too.”
“I knew that day I was going to marry you, Gilly. I gave you my heart that day, too.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. No one knows anything about love on their first date.”
“You were just a silly little girl.”
“Maybe so, but you were a very smitten little boy.”
“I was not.”
“You were, you wrote my name everywhere.”
“Yes everywhere, on your textbook covers, on your science folder—heck, you even carved my name on that old oak out back at your parents’ house.”
“How do you remember all that?” Gilbert asked, looking again at the memory in his hand.
“I remember because I never hid my heart in the attic.”
“That’s not fair.” he said, even though it probably was.
“I’ve realized that life’s not fair.” Edna said as she reached out unsuccessfully to take back the keepsake from her husband. “You made me a lot of promises.”
“Yes, promises. Some were spoken, others implied, but you used them to steal my heart.”
“I stole your heart? I thought I won your heart.”
“Only kept promises keep a girl’s heart.”
“So you’re saying...”
“I’m saying you stole my heart.”
“Haven’t I kept my promises?" Gilbert asked, "I worked hard to provide for you and the kids.”
“Yes, you worked hard, and we never wanted for things—but you didn’t promise me things.”
“You don't understand, it’s a man’s job to provide. I gave you a home and a car and nice clothes.”
“No you don't understand, it’s a husband's job to love his wife. I needed songs and romantic movies and hearts filled with chocolate.”
“So all my hard work means nothing? This house, our life, nothing?”
“Of course not, but it isn’t what you promised me all those years ago in front of a movie theater. You don’t remember, do you?
“What you said when you gave me this box of candy.”
“I do remember, I told you my heart was yours forever.”
“And what did I say?”
“You said you would hold it tightly forever, too.”
“And haven't I? I still have this heart. I’ve held on to it all these decades. . Doesn’t that tell you what I wanted?”
“You wanted a smitten little boy.”
“Yes, I did. I do. Is that too much to ask? I’m not just a wrinkled old woman, Gilly. I’m still that silly little girl who saved an empty heart-shaped box for over sixty years.”
“I don’t know what to say, I’ve always done my best to make you happy.”
“Fine, you’ve done your best. I guess I should be grateful. I guess I’m no longer that silly little girl and you aren’t that lovesick boy.” Without asking, she reached down and snatched the heart-shaped box from out of her husband's hands and walked towards the kitchen.
“Where are you going?” Gilbert asked.
“I’m going to do what I should have done a long time ago., I’m going to throw this worthless piece of garbage in the trash.”
“Wait! You can’t do that,” Gilbert said, as he jumped up from his chair.
“I can’t? Why can’t I? What is so important that I shouldn’t throw this thing in the trash this very second?”
“You know perfectly well why...” Gilbert said as he took the box out of his wife’s hands. “It’s garbage day. It should go in the can outside.” With that, he walked to the curb to dispose of it correctly, grateful he didn’t miss the pickup.