I read this in preparation for our trip to Paris later this month. The morning after I finished it, I was walking down East Broughton Street toward the office. It was a cold morning, and the sun was still low, and my boots clapped against the cold stone street as I crossed in front of the printmaker gallery and the auction house. I was thinking about the Place de la Contrescarpe, and Hemingway, and I wondered what his wallet looked like, because I always thought that wallets could tell you more about a person than their face. Then I thought about my wallet, an Ettinger, the wallet of the Prince of Wales, if he has a wallet, and then I did a mental checklist of the things I had on me: the old cowboy boots from Texas with new heels from the old cobbler off Easter Road who Marcello recommended, and the thick socks I bought in Ohio. In one pocket that Ettinger, and a phone. In my other pocket were my keys, looped through an antique Danish sailing shackle from Helsingør, just down the street from Hamlet’s castle; a Space Pen that Alice had given me in India and that I’d kept with me for the rest of our trip around the world, which was dented at one end more than the other from being dropped, and I wondered if perhaps that end was heavier, which was why it kept falling first against the ground; and a copper Zippo that I’d bought in the El Cajon Amvet’s Thrift Store fifteen years ago when Beverley worked there. She was seventy-five then, or seventy-seven, and smoked three packs of cigarettes every day, and I looked at the brown wrinkles in her fingers whenever she handed me my change. When I went home I stopped by to see her until they told me she’d retired, and that time I left my calling card, but she never got in touch, and then the store closed, and I supposed she was dead; and five pounds, exactly, in coins.
I turned right down Broughton street and kept up my mental inventory. A French Postal Service satchel from 1939, stamped with the Poste Telegraph et Telephone, which I’d spent probably $100 and 100 hours oiling until it was smooth and shiny and curved comfortingly around the small of my back. The Gigliodoro card case from Caesar, which he’d picked up for me on a golf tour in Singapore. A Kindle with 650 books, most of which I haven’t read yet; a 600ml Sigg bottle; and the Doublemint mint box from the 7-Eleven in Ho Chi Minh City, which I keep refilling. The lunch box from the village in Mauritius, when we’d stopped because I’d seen a man weaving them in the dirt. In it two jars of food – widemouth mason jars that Carl had sent over, which I could put my whole right hand in to wash, which was important before we had a dishwasher. The Josoblu chess bag that Joelle gave us when I moved over.
And I thought about how really, our lives are an accumulation of souvenirs, some better and some worse, whether they’re tangible and intangible, and how good Hemingway was at writing about his life in just such a way that it might make you want to be him, or at least visit the places that he had lived in, almost 100 years later, marking them on your Google map, and then how lucky I was to be appreciating them now, when I was young and alive and had so much to look forward to, instead of remembering them in a few decades when I had nothing to look forward to but a morningdark room in Idaho and the eternal light or darkness beyond.