1:25 in the morning I woke up to the burning bile in the back of my throat, the pungent taste of work undone. I have been gathering papers since then: transcripts, birth certificates, passports.
It amazes me how a single folder, worth no more than a couple of dollars at the stationary store, just a set of card paper folded and pocketed that one can carry without noticing, is large enough to contain a life.
Along with most people, I keep all my "important documents" (even though this sounds like an oxymoron) in one place, that I may easily dash out with in case of a fire. And like most people, I don't open that folder unless absolutely pushed to do it.
Like a lot of people, I call this The Folder.
Maybe the hour had something to do with it, but facing The Folder felt like one of those times when in the silence and solitude of an endless moment, a recognition, realization, an unveiling descends and no words could articulate it if it was to be recalled and explanation attempted.
The first thing that met me when I opened the folder was my will; then I worked backwards through the breaking of my marriage, birth of my child, various transcripts as I had tried to find a niche in a world I'd immigrated to, the numerous recommendation letters I'd moved with (concrete good will, as I used to call them), my marriage certificate, transcripts, dissertation copies, school records, and finally at the very end, tucked away in the pocket of that folder, a birth certificate.
I have been asked to provide copies of transcripts and I have an impending international journey, both of which force me to confront The Folder, a confrontation, which, I must confess feels like meeting a self in a mirror that one keeps carefully concealed behind a thick curtain.
My M. Phil. dissertation focused on the image of the woman in fiction and predictable soul that I am, I'd named it "Mirror, Mirror." Ever since then, I've found every reflection a bit unsettling, like acknowledging and owning an older, less recognizable being as self, like suddenly recognizing a doppelganger on a lonely walk. My neatly tied up resolution to the dissertation does not translate itself into more accepting, healthier reflections in my reality, especially those reflections that include a movie of my entire life as I look to my death.
Now here I am, reflecting, yet again, an hour later, my paper work addressed, The Folder put away.
I am trying to calm myself down enough to catch a couple of hours' rest before the mad rush of my day begins. I am trying to read The Ramayana, trying to get a cosmic perspective, trying to convince myself that of course I matter, that there is more richness, complexity, feeling, relevance to my existence than can be contained in a cheap folder shut away in a drawer.
The Folder awaits, in sure knowledge that what I feel for it is immaterial, that it may be a discomfort now, but that the awareness of its being is also the reason I've had many restful nights, and that it shall be the loudest proclamation of who I was when it is time for it to be opened by my survivors.
Unlike me, The Folder needs no other validations or acceptances.