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Goodbye, Old Friend

Goodbye, Old FriendWhen I told the guy at the Apple Store how old my MacBook laptop was, he laughed in my face and said: “Congratulations. That’s two years longer than the life expectancy.”

That made my head spin a bit – hearing what a game of word procesing brinksmanship I had been playing on the device that stores my work every single day. And it’s not as if this computer has enjoyed a a life of leisure. One in which all that was required of it was the occasional perusal of an online menu or a session of online shopping. This computer did some hard living.

It was on this computer that I typed my first exploratory pages of (bad) fiction. I opened this laptop and fired it up on all those countless weeknights, years ago, when I was working in a newsroom during the day and playing around at night, just beginning to consider a different sort of writing and career. It was on this computer that my husband and I planned a wedding, and then a honeymoon. It was through this computer that I stayed in touch, sending numberless emails and photos to friends and family after my husband and I moved halfway across the country. And it was on this computer that I wrote and edited my first novel. Where I sent the emails to try to find a literary agent. Where I sent the first email to the person who would become my publisher.

Precisely because of this, I am having a very hard time determining what to do with this computer. I know it is time for an upgrade. In fact, it’s past that time. But I can’t bring myself to just wipe it clean and toss it. It would seem the height of ingratitude. An unceremonious ending for a faithful friend.

A friend who, in truth, I’ve kept around longer than I should have. I’ve made countless trips to the Apple Genius Bar, adding new memory in the hopes of prolonging its lifespan. I guess you could say that I have a tendency to resist change. But really, it is too risky to keep putting off the process of replacing this trusty old laptop. So why am I so nostalgic?

Well, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt foolishly attached to an inanimate object. It’s not so much that I’m attached to the object itself. This computer, on the surface, is identical to millions of other laptops. I know that. It’s that I’m sentimental about the moments and experiences that this object made possible. In some cases, the moments and experiences that this object facilitated.

I felt similarly attached to my plastic Paris metro card, a relic from the summer I spent living alone in Paris. I see this plastic Navigo card and I’m reminded of all of the adventures I had discovering hidden Parisian neighborhoods. I remember the morning in the underground photo booth when I posed for the picture on this card – how excited I was to be in this beautiful city, learning about a new metro system and the locales to which it would carry me. My smile on the card reflects the eager exuberance I felt at the beginning of that season, tinged with hints of fear and incredulity. What was I doing in Paris alone? Was it foolish to have quit my job and moved from New York? And how would I ever figure out my way around? This card is something of a touchstone – a physical reminder of those exciting and wonderful and scary days. And so, that card was not tossed when I left Paris. Its expiration date is now long into the past. And yet, there it is, in a small little box in a drawer in my bedside table, and that’s where it will stay.

I felt the same way about the white handkerchief they gave us at my college graduation. I will never use this handkerchief for its intended purpose. The only time I’ve even come close to using it was on Class Day, when my entire class sang our alma mater. At the end of the song, we waved our handkerchiefs over our heads, more than a thousand of us brandishing those white mini banners as our hoarse voices mumbled over verses we barely knew. I will never use this handkerchief, no. But I will never get rid of it, either.

So, I’ve been asking myself what to do with my computer. It’s a bit bigger than a plastic metro card or a small white handkerchief. I can’t exactly shove it into some hidden desk drawer. And in spite of how I may sound, I am not a hoarder.

And then, I had an idea. There is a young man I know. A young man who shares my love of history and my passion to be a writer. He is setting out on the road of writing his first novel, but he doesn’t yet have his own computer. And that’s when it struck me. I couldn’t think of a worthier cause than giving this laptop – this small piece of inanimate technology that housed my first words of fiction – to another person setting out to write his first words of fiction.

I wonder – do you feel this way about any objects in your life?

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Allison Pataki
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