[The auction for this Significant Object, with story by Scott Snyder, has ended. Original price: $0 (found object). Final price: $80. This is part of a series of five epistolary stories guest-curated by Ben Greenman. Proceeds from this auction will go to One Story.]
I’ve left you this tiny wrecking ball because it’s what brought me back.
I found it in an antique shop two weeks ago. I was with my girlfriend; we were on our way to visit her parents upstate. She was looking for shaker furniture and I was wandering around the shop, killing time, and suddenly there it was, sitting in a row vintage toys — little dump trucks and steam-rollers and a crane made of tin.
The sight of the thing stopped me in my tracks, because suddenly I was back inside an afternoon we’d had. We were in the back of your father’s van and we’d just slept together for the second time ever; we were lying on our backs, sweaty and naked from the waist down and I remember feeling stunned by how much better it’d been than the first time and just then you rolled toward me and said:
“What do you want to happen when you kick the bucket?”
I held up my shaking hands. “Look at that. Are your fingers tingling?”
You threw your leg over mine. “I said… what do you want to happen to your body when you die?”
I told you that I didn’t know, but that I’d probably get cremated.
“Well I’m getting frozen,” you said in a matter of fact way. “I read about it. The moment after you die, a doctor injects you with anti-freeze – the same stuff that animals in the arctic make naturally, penguins and polar bears? And then he submerges your body in liquid nitrogen and seals you up in a canister.”
“And?” I said.
“And what?” you said. “And then you wait for someone to wake you up.”
“Some weird guy in some weird future,” I said.
You smiled and pressed harder against me. “Ooh, you sound jealous.”
“Sooo jealous,” I said, but in truth I was actually a little jealous.
“Well I promise,” you said, “I’ll wait just for you and only you to wake me up, prince charming.”
“I’ll be sure,” I said, kissing you between words, “to bring my can opener and a wrecking ball to bust the ice.”
I soon forgot about this conversation. I never thought of it again – not when we headed off to college. Not when we broke up. Not in the years after. Not even when you died.
I was teaching English overseas when it happened. I didn’t get the news until almost a year afterwards, and still I didn’t remember the conversation.
But then out of nowhere I see this wrecking ball and it all comes back. So I dug up your parents’ number and the funny thing is, I knew even before your mother told me that you’d gone through with it.
Now I’ve come to see you. Each steel container has a blinking green light on top, and a valve that periodically gives off a little sigh of vapor. According to the doctor (is he a doctor?), this one – number 77 — is yours. He said the facility keeps safety deposit lockers for its clients – for any personal effects they might want to keep nearby.
I know they might not wake you up for a hundred years. And I’ve read about the possibility of brain damage – ice crystals rupturing the pathways of your brain. I know you might not remember that afternoon at all. Or me.
But even so, I want you to go to your personal locker when you wake up, wet and shivering, and find this letter, and this tiny wrecking ball, and know that I was here.