Discoveries from a Late Writer’s Dusty Desk

"Desk Job" by Thomas Slatin

… From My Dream Journal

In my young adult years, I would occasionally have dreams of exploring abandoned houses in my hometown of Brockton, Massachusetts. This is something I never actually did, yet unconsciously I clearly couldn’t help but long for the thrill of it all. It wasn’t safe in reality, to be honest. Many of those old, decrepit structures were condemned for good reason; exploring them wasn’t worth risking my young life, no matter how poorly things were going at the time.

Still, in one such vivid dreams I stumbled upon a hidden gem, a study long forgotten, buried under a thick layer of dust. As I cautiously made my way through the room, I realized that I had stumbled upon a treasure trove. Clearly, someone’s life’s work had been kept here, hidden away from the prying eyes of the world, waiting for me to uncover it.

The musty scent of the old papers and books filled my sinuses. I suddenly felt a thrill of excitement course through my veins. In here I was privy to the whispers of the past, a new and unexpected audience to the stories and secrets of the person who had once called this place their sanctuary. There I was, a mere witness to their legacy.

I finally allowed myself to sit at the weathered writing desk; the chair creaked and screamed violently, but grudgingly bore my weight. I began to filter through papers now yellowed and aged, which bore witness to the passing of time.

This was a unique opportunity to uncover secrets of a distant past. The dust has settled, thick and heavy, coating everything in a fine layer that clung to my fingertips. This space was still brimming with manuscripts and random scraps, clearly all left abandoned to the dust. So, what was written here, so many moons ago?

While I don’t remember any specifics, I do recall some of what I learned as I looked at these papers more closely. As I read the beat cursive handwriting, I began to see the legacy of a broken man’s imagination and dreams. His scribblings, etched with a trembling hand, reveal a heart heavy with burdens he couldn’t release, a mind rich with wisdom he couldn’t impart. 

“Why did he have to die without publishing any of this?” I would ask myself. Why couldn’t he let go of the things he couldn’t change, no matter how hard he tried? These are the questions would linger in the air, forever unanswered.

Apparently, dried-out pens and worn-out pencils were his only tools, his only means of escape from a life he couldn’t bear. He poured his soul into every stroke of the pen, every scratch of the pencil, every carefully chosen word. Fortunately, the dust that settled so meticulously also preserved his words, the ones he toiled over with such care and precision.

These dusty papers are the remnants of a man who let every cog in him rust. From what I gathered from skimming the manuscripts, he apparently was lied to by everyone he knew, and felt he had no one to trust in his world. His legacy lies here, waiting for someone with a clue to learn from his mistakes, to pass on his wisdom and his message of hope for a brighter future. It’s just too bad that it was by a happy accident of curiosity that these words and wisdom were recovered.

I began to paint a vivid mental picture of this late writer’s final days. I could imagine the long hours spent poring over these pages. Hopes and dreams were woven into every word, the passion that drove them forward clearly a hope that someone would one day read them. It was as if I had stepped into a time machine, transported to a different era.

In that moment, I recognized the value of this glimpse into the past. I was grateful for this fleeting moment, this fleeting dream, that had brought me here, to this place of wonder and awe. The truth is, some things can’t be rewritten, no matter how much we try. A picture of what he was doing with his manuscripts betrayed his greatest mistake, trying to change the past, to rewrite a story already written. 

While the late writer, as I can recall, did have some hope for the future, he clearly didn’t have that much trust in it, just as he felt of his distrustful past and present. But, the future is now; it’s ours to shape, to write, to make our own. We can’t change what has already been, but we can create something new, something that can last. Just maybe, his words would give me the inspiration I needed to make it happen.

Regrettably, while I do remember stuffing an abundance of his papers into my backpack, these wonderful documents were but mere figments of my imagination. After all, this late writer never existed. Still, as I awoke, I realized true significance of the dream. I dreaded becoming like that man, penning countless words and toiling over multiple manuscripts in obscurity. Once I departed from this world, I feared my creations would do nothing but accumulate dust and fade into oblivion.

Fortunately, over the years that followed, I decided to keep my work digitized and backed up. I also will have it written in my will to ensure my writings are preserved in multiple ways for future generations to discover. Regardless, this was a heck of a dream. Despite my initial attempts at chronicling it, a lamentable attempt at a poem, I’m glad I did. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have the inspiration to craft this full length essay.

Whatever you do, try and leave something to be remembered by for future generations. For me, that’s my writing. For you, it could be writing a song, inventing a useful device, or discovering a scientific breakthrough. Whatever your skills and passions, always strive to leave the world behind better than you found it.

Photo by Thomas Slatin, “Desk Job

Amelia Desertsong is a former content marketing specialist turned essayist and creative nonfiction author. She writes articles on many niche hobbies and obscure curiosities, pretty much whatever tickles her fancy.
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