Friday, June 15th, 2012 Writing

On my desk in front of me is a receipt from Supreme Hardware on West 73rd Street from 10:30 this morning for $8, which I spent on a 1/4″ masonry drillbit that I used to mount bookshelves in my apartment. The new shelves, which I finished today, let me finally put away an enormous stack of unorganized books that had accumulated on my living room floor near my reading chair. While sorting these books I found many I hadn’t seen in years, including a damaged paperback Lytton Strachey biography that I bought off a blanket on the street; a page was marked with a folded and faded receipt which, unlike today’s strip of paper tape-ribbon, from the hardware store’s old-school register, is a full digital transaction record.

Apparently I was at a Krispy Kreme at 285 West 23rd Street at ten minutes to two on the afternoon of June 20th, 1998, where I bought a large iced coffee from somebody named Lonnie. What was I doing on West 23rd Street that Saturday afternoon? (Google provided the day of the week.) Is there still a Krispy Kreme there? Was I alone? Who was Lonnie? (Male or female?) Was I carrying the Lytton Strachey book with me or did I absently stick the receipt in my wallet and then pull it out later when I needed a bookmark? I remember that I got mildly interested in Strachey after I saw the Stephen Frears movie called Carrington (with Emma Thompson as Dora Carrington and Jonathan Pryce as Strachey); IMDB tells me that the movie came out in 1995, which corresponds to my memory, because I saw the movie with a friend who worked at a website (an “internet company”) for which I was doing some work at that time. The movie was in theaters for a few weeks, and I could probably figure out where I saw it (but not when); I might even have a ticket stub or a receipt from the restaurant where we had dinner after the movie.

But none of this helps me figure out what I was doing on that Saturday afternoon, three years after that; whether I was reading the book then, or later that day, or the next day, and what made me go into that Krispy Kreme and buy that large iced coffee that I don’t remember drinking from Lonnie, a man or woman whom I can’t picture and who, if he or she is still alive, may only have the vaguest memories of working at a Krispy Kreme in Manhattan fourteen years ago and certainly has no memory at all of me and my iced coffee. But it happened that day, and at exactly 1:51 PM I handed a twenty dollar bill to Lonnie and got $18.11 back and left the Krispy Kreme with my large iced coffee, and the receipt went into my pocket and then into the book and I never saw it again until today. What did I do with the rest of that day? Who was Lonnie? The thermal ink on the receipt has faded to near-invisibility; I can barely see the 8-bit characters that reveal just one incidental forgotten moment of millions, billions in this city every day, every decade, every century.