That black leather briefcase, sitting complacently on the topmost shelf of the cupboard in my parents’ bedroom, always fascinated me. Old and dusty, it was barely recognizable amid a pile of magazines that were no longer read and clothes that were no longer worn and yet my father refused to discard them. Whenever I asked my mother about the contents of the briefcase, she always carefully evaded the conversation.
As a pesky kid full of curiosity, I had explored my parents’ bedroom pretty well. Especially during those hot and humid afternoons in summers when I had nothing interesting to keep me occupied and my mother was too tired to get bothered and was taking a nap or reading a book somewhere in the house. I used to check out the lower shelves in that cupboard; putting on my mother’s jewelries and trying some of her makeup stuffs, wearing her shoes, and so on. Earlier, the briefcase used to be on one of the lower shelves. Once my parents discovered the tracks of my sinister activities in their room, they moved that briefcase on the topmost shelf, beyond the reach of a ten year old. But my eyes were still on it. That briefcase needed to be opened to satisfy my curiosity. Period.
So, one fine afternoon when my parents were out, I balanced myself precariously on a stack of books perched on a stool and took that briefcase down. “Ah, finally I got it!” I was overjoyed to see that the briefcase was not locked. After all, my parents never thought of locking it because they couldn’t imagine their daughter pursuing an old briefcase with such zest. I fiddled with the rusty zipper for a few minutes before it gave up. Inside, there were some old books, a dried flower, few handmade cards, some coins and currency notes, and a stack of letters. “Nothing interesting,” I was disheartened. I looked at the stack of letters, knowing too well that it was wrong to read someone’s personal correspondence without their knowledge. Yes, my parents had unsuccessfully tried to teach me manners and etiquettes. “Who cares?” I reasoned with myself. I had already opened the briefcase that I was not supposed to.
I started reading the first letter that dated back to 1985. It was addressed to my mother. The handwriting seemed familiar. It was my father who had written this. A few more lines and I had to stop reading. It turned out to be a love letter my parents had exchanged during the early years of their marriage when my father was posted in a different city for a short while. I could not imagine them as lovers even in my wildest dreams! Especially when I had already seen them quarreling and bickering over petty household stuffs. After a few moments of cringing and pondering, the ten year old me realized that the briefcase needed to be shut and kept at its original position immediately. It was kept away from me for a reason and I needed to respect that.
Today, the thirty year old me smiles while typing away about the innate curiosity and stupidity of a child who accidentally discovered two lovers, long before they became her parents.