Life in a Briefcase

I seem to have too much time on my hands today and have spent some of that time wading through failed creative projects.

I had an idea, some time ago, of fabricating an autobiographical fiction and the piece that I posted earlier today was part of that thought.

I also began writing an introduction to set the whole thing in motion and that is what follows in this post.

The fact that I have dusted these two unfinished pieces off and given them some air suggests (to me, at least) that I may not yet have entirely severed ties with the project.

And so, if you have the time or energy, feedback would be more than welcome.



When he was gone it was left to me to rummage through the remains of his life in the search for answers. It was not a task I took on with any great enthusiasm but rather one thrust upon me by a puzzling sense of duty. Certainly there was no-one else who cared enough or would even have considered it. And if I was looking for answers I don’t know what form I was expecting them to take, exactly. Even now I don’t really know what it is that I have found.

The physical search itself was a straight forward affair and really just involved the emptying out of his flat before the lease expired for the final time and the agent gave up on chasing unpaid rent. It was a clean-up, in other words and might just as well have been done with a fire or a fire hose, but I chose to do much of it on my hands and knees conferring upon it the respect of an archaeological dig. In the end the tangible scraps of his existence were gone in three trailer loads to the tip.

Though some things, inevitably, I could not let go.

I held on to a beanie he wore almost constantly for the four years he had been convinced he was going bald and then discarded when this proved to have been a false alarm only to be resurrected as a poor disguise upon his going into hiding. It was moth-eaten and dirty and it still smelt. Of him. There were some old school photographs too – black and white and fading, as well as a snap shot taken with Lionel standing outside the Pantheon (when had either of them been to Rome?). There were various other items of clothing that I remember him wearing and I kept them with me a while and cried when I finally disposed of them in the charity bin.

And, of course, I kept his old brief case. I say ‘old’ when, in fact, I don’t know when it came into his possession. We were apart for many years (for most of his life, in truth) but I would think that it appeared somewhere between him leaving school and finishing his brief career in real estate and if it was, indeed, ‘old’, it certainly didn’t look it. He bestowed upon it the love he denied just about everything and everybody else and it carried barely an injury from the train wreck that was its owner’s life.

Before opening it I had no idea what may reside within. Anyone who has paid any attention to his case knows, of course, that at one point it had carried, fatefully, a copy of the Koran. I now know that it had, during that same period, also contained various other religious texts – a fact that was not deemed worthy of report during the general hysteria. At any rate, by the time I opened it, all such texts were gone and what remained (apart from a driving map of New South Wales, a packet of mints and $3.75 in small change) was just this. The brief volume that rests before you.

Not that it was in this form when it came to me. Some was written in disheveled notebooks, some on single pieces of loose leaf paper, some on 5 ¼’ floppy disks (I was amazed that the data was recoverable) and some on a single portable hard disc. There were tiny snippets of poetry scribbled on hotel napkins. The only way to get any idea of the order in which things were written would be by way of the technology used to do so. But this is unreliable. Who could tell what has been rewritten over time and what may have been transferred to digital format with the original versions destroyed or discarded? Certainly it is clear that the whole thing was not written sequentially. I think that one may be able to judge that accounts of his early childhood were penned long after those describing his arrest, for example. My guess, in fact, is that he first started writing his memoirs during that brief incarceration. I could be wrong.

To make matters worse there was very little consistency in terms of style. There were (are) sections written in present tense chronologically preceding others in past tense. He has alternated between first person and third person to the extent that he uses both in the space of a few sentences. I am assuming that he would have settled on one format or other prior to publishing. But then I am assuming that he ever intended to publish at all. And of his life one should assume nothing.

I have chosen, therefore, to reproduce it as it came to me. The subsequent final draft is as a result, I admit, a little difficult to read and, perhaps, more than a little annoying for that reason. I have tried to put it in a logical order and corrected some spelling errors (not all of them, perhaps) but otherwise what you see before you are his words. It is not the work of a great literary talent. It is the record of an unusual but essentially ordinary human talking about himself. As he did often.

And whilst it is not a work of fiction it should not be treated as one of irrefutable fact either. He was not the pathological liar that many made him out to be, but he was more than capable of mistruth when matters of ego were involved.

He states at one point, for example, that I never loved him. The truth is that I loved him from the first.

And he knew it.


Emma Anderson

4 thoughts on “Life in a Briefcase

  1. I read through both pieces and to me they are both excellent pieces of writing. Your power of description is brilliant. I kept getting clear images of what you were writing. I also like that your writing is very readable, I was engaged throughout as I love to read about character. The one thing I felt was the need to know more about some aspects of the character you are writing about. But maybe if there is more those things could be explored, such as the briefcase and its contents, why he carried religious texts in there. I also detected a sense of loss with the final statement.
    For a writing project, I think this is a very worthy one to pursue.


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