The Garden of Earthly Deletes


Her email: I’m sorry about what happened.  Will you forgive me?  Can you forgive me?  Will you let me come back?

My response: No, after what u said before.  If that’s the way u want things to be then don’t come home..stay with u r mom!!

Her email: Please let’s try to work things out.  I love u.

I thought of her and her broken heart…broken so many times by so many guys.

My response: That sounds like total BS to me…but maybe we can meet at the usual place…just to talk. 

My finger wavered over the SEND key.  I hesitated.  My mind was muddy from the back-and-forth emotions of the last few hours.  I moved my hand toward the DELETE key. I thought about her feelings of remorse for a nano-second and then I punched it like I was squashing a malarial Anopheles mosquito.  I was angry at what she had said to me.  A moment passed.  I wasn’t angry anymore.  I wanted to take back the email and reword it into a plea to stay with me.  But I knew it was too late.  Once that rectangular key is pressed, what was, isn’t anymore.  It was like an erasure of a dry marker on a white board.  This momentary spike of anger I felt had vanished.

Like the final email, I had erased her.  I regretted what I had done.  I failed to stem the bleeding from her soul.  I failed her.

I sat and thought about the situation for an hour.  Then I sat down and wrote a message saying I was sorry I told her to go live with her mom.  I pushed SEND this time.  After getting a cold beer from the fridge, I sat back down at the laptop.  I read in disbelief that the email had bounced back to me.  She had closed her account.  She was unavailable.  She was gone.  I had just deleted her from my life.  She always said it would probably end like this…that I would get her out of my life, that I would erase her.  That I would delete her.  She somehow knew this was coming for a year now.  And I played into her vortex of negativity.

That damn DELETE key.  How does that work, anyway?  How can you delete something?  Where does it go?  I know it exists as pulses of digital bits, but somewhere in the server’s main frame, it must still live.

It’s one of the most basic laws of science: one cannot create or destroy matter.  And, the electrons of the digital bits that make up a simple email message, are made of matter.

So, where is that email now?  Right now at this precise second?  Where are the zillions of deleted messages?

I once read that computers can’t really erase them from existence.  What I read is that in deleting, you simply remove the address.  But the information is still out there…somewhere.  A good hacker could get them back, but I didn’t know any hackers, good or bad.

So I did the only thing I could think of doing.  I took a walk.

I wandered all over the sleeping city until the eastern sky turned pink.  It was then that I spotted the long stone wall.  I had never seen this before.  I walked up to the only door, a great wooden entrance like one would find in a castle.  I looked up.  The sky was turning blue above the twenty-foot wall of grey granite rocks.

I pushed on the door and it opened.  I stepped over the threshold.  All around me was the most amazing and beautiful garden I had ever seen.  How did this place exist without me knowing about it?  I walked along the stone-slab path.  A full minute passed before I realized that there were dozens of words hanging from the branches and flower pedals.  No, not a dozen…hundreds, thousands.  Then it all came into focus in the clear morning air.  Every plant in the garden was festooned with strings of words.  They were not on paper or tape.  They were words that formed sentences held together with some kind of invisible force.  I took one and read it:

So, wat r we doin tmrro nite??? 

I read more.  Each one was full of errors and misspoken sentiments.  Some were meaningless.  Some were pornographic.  Some were declarations of undying love.  And, some were rejections of love.  The messages of sadness and hate and anger hung like dead snakes.  They all hung like that, dead black and serpentine.

I’m not a genius by any means, but I knew that these were deleted messages.  This is where they went to spend eternity.

Everything in the garden was broken.  I could see broken engagements, hearts, marriages, affairs, souls, plans, dreams, nightmares and prayers.  Pleas to God for a healing.  But deleted when the loved one dies anyway.

All those deletes.

The little garden had morphed while my back was turned.  When I looked around, the trees and shrubs now stretched beyond the horizon.  The city had disappeared and I found myself standing in the midst of countless plants, like Dorothy’s field of poppies, that covered one rolling hill after another.  They all were festooned with deleted messages.  Uncountable in number, each message was something not sent to someone over the internet.  Most of them bore the sad, lonely and forlorn aura of a mistake made and then regretted.

But, wouldn’t a simple email correct the mistake?,  you may ask.  Well, I was proof that sometimes that does not happen so easily.  In days of old, if you put a letter into a mailbox and let it drop, it was a done deal and irretrievable.  If you then traveled to the home of the person you had sent the regretful mail, you may be confronted with an empty house.  Or, if you tried to dial-up someone to repair a wound you caused, you could be met with: “I’m sorry, that number is no longer in service”.

It all came down to the same problem.  How could one ever stop a bullet once the trigger was pulled?  How could one run to overtake an arrow that was shot, straight and true, before it struck the target?

I wanted her back and the best hope was here in the garden of deletes.  But, the task was impossible and I knew it.

Or was it?

I noticed a section of the garden where it seemed to be raining, raining new deletes. They fell onto the trees like black strips of strange snow.  If my deleted message were anywhere, wouldn’t it be where the incoming was coming in?

I walked over to that part of the garden.  I began reading the messages.  Some were paragraphs and some were chapters and some were even entire books.  I was looking for only a sentence.  But there was no way I could find it here.  I had to find another way to dress her wound.

I turned around to look for the exit.  I took a step.  There it was, hanging right before my eyes.  Without even thinking, I grabbed it and ran for the garden door.  The vast endless fields had shrunken to the little patch of flowers and trees that I had seen when I first entered.  I crumbled the message into a tight ball and threw it over the wall.  It was a mighty throw but the message made it out.  I squinted as I watched as it hit the top of the wall and bounced out.

I had successfully saved my deleted message from this garden of eternal regrets.

As I walked through the doorway, I found myself on my own street.  I lived nearby.  Putting my hands in my pockets, I walked in the direction of home.

I heard the squeal of rubber tires and the bump of a car as it hit the curb near me and came to an abrupt stop.  I turned.  There she was, clawing at the front door of her car.  She flung it open and ran straight into my arms.

“My email was slow today,” she said.  “I got your reply.  So you’ll give me another chance?  You will, won’t you?  I so love you.”

I put my arm over her shoulder and we walked back to my place, our place, as if nothing had happened.




Boy, You’ve Got To Carry That Weight

It’s been said that the human soul weighs 21 grams.

A gram is equal to the weight of a standard paper clip.  So, if you hold 21 paper clips in the palm of your hand, you’re hold what amounts to the heft of an eternal soul…a soul that will spend all of time in eternal bliss or never-ending torment.  21 paper clips!  That’s a pretty small amount for such a precarious an item as a human soul.

I’ve been doing some thinking about this and my musings has led me to astonishing places.  I own an iPhone and I’ve been hard at work calculating the weight (really it’s called ‘mass’, but I’ll stick with ‘weight’) of email.  My phone, like everyone else’s, receives a ton of text messages, voice mail, email and photos, among other things.  Most of this comes to me from those people I care about, but, alas, some comes unsolicited, i.e., junk mail.  I really don’t want to know about a bargain condominium in Boca Raton or a relaxing get-away weekend flight to Thule, Greenland.  This avalanche of data begins to make my iPhone heavy.  So much so, that if I carry it in my pants pocket, my pants begin to sag and droop down my leg forcing me to tighten my belt which in turn cuts off circulation between my torso and my thighs.  It can get ugly, I tell you.  So, I delete.  I delete every day.  If I’m in an aggressive deleting mood on certain days, I do so with abandon.  The little rubber nub at the tip of my stylus begins to show signs of stress fractures about the width of three microns.  Soon I’ll have to spring for a new stylus.  $18.00 for a plastic pen-like thing that won’t even write.

But, I digress.

The general rule, as I see it, is that the fewer emails and such, the lighter my iPhone becomes.  But this brings on a new and very serious dilemma: some emails are heavier than others and I am forced to make a value choice.  There are texts from my wife about not forgetting to buy the Skim Milk.  A reminder of a doctor’s appointment.  A photo of my new grandson.  Some weird object or broken down barn that caught my eye while driving.  A note from my son thanking me for getting him two tickets for a Broadway show.  A birthday wish.  A simple “I love you” from someone I love in return.

I want to keep these special emotes, but I can’t keep them all.  My pants would sag.  So, how do I choose what goes and what stays?  I’ve come up with a rough rubric to solve this situation:

  • Some stuff is too heavy to hold onto.  A threat of an argument.  A negative comment.  A bad reminder of a bad memory.  These go.
  • Some messages are light and airy like a cloud…like smoke rising from a campfire…like morning mist rising from the lake.  The love notes….a promise kept…a secret revealed…an image of an infant, smiling his first smile and caught in pixels for all time by an…an iPhone.  These stay.

Once upon a time, many of these connections were made over a telephone.  But they had to be stored in your head.  Maybe that explains why people in the 1950’s seemed to walk around with their heads hanging.  Now, this slim package of diodes and chips are, at once, your wallet, purse, scrapbook, phone book, tape recorder, camera, arcade and library.  It’s all there in the palm of your hand.  And it fits nearly everywhere.  Now, that’s heavy.  Heavier than your soul.

So heavy, it can make your pants sag.