I stared at the pile of mementos sitting before me. How untidily they were piled there, in that heap.
At the bottom, pulled down by its weight, I could see the medallion. I had barely managed to graduate with honors. When I had been presented with that medallion, it had validated all of my hopes. For a moment, I had known that I could overcome challenge, and I had naively marched forward, certain that, bearing this talisman, all problems would fall before me.
The thick stack of papers, there, those were my stories written for a critical writing class. The professor had praised both their composition and execution, telling me how I was a “natural born storyteller.” I had returned home that day after class with a beaming smile that just wouldn’t seem to vanish. Of course, then I had filed the stories all away without making any attempt to publish them, but that warm glow stayed with me for weeks.
Two small matchbox cars. Those had been given to me by the kids I babysat one summer, small tokens that represented so much more. Every day, I had been forced to pry them away from me to leave, as they hugged me, telling me how much they loved me and wanted me to stay. They had picked out these cars, their favorites, to bestow upon me.
The bookmark, sitting near the top of the pile, had come from my girlfriend at the time. We had dated for years, and she knew that I was constantly losing bookmarks. It had been a great present, and I had made sure that, of all the bookmarks, this was one that I never lost, never misplaced.
So many more items, each a memento of my past. The blurry pictures from my Bar Mitzvah. My first paper that had received an A in college. A copy of the school paper with my article on the third page, my name in ink for all to see. Bottle caps from the first drinks I had ever consumed. A roster from my fraternity. So many belongings, tiny treasures that represented an integral part of my past.
I struck the match.
At first, the flame didn’t want to take, and it flickered on the edge of life. After a moment, however, it recovered against the soft breeze and flared up, leaping into angry red life. I held out my hand, the match suspended above the pile.
For a moment I was paralyzed. I took a deep breath, willing my trembling hand to still. Then, with a sigh, I released the match.
I had soaked the pile in plenty of lighter fluid to ensure that it would all go up evenly. The match ignited the fumes, and the fire roared into life. I watched my things burn, so many remembrances that were gone in a matter of seconds.
As the flames died down, I turned and walked away. The sun was shining down, and the soft breeze ruffled my hair. The world stretched out before me, filled with promise.