Pack Up Your Troubles -Handmade Collage

We met in one of those forsaken places where the air hangs heavy in late afternoons sending desperate foreigners seeking refuge in hotel bars. He sat near the window staring at me. Try as I might to ignore him, his gaze unnerved me and so I rose from my seat and walked over to him. "May I ask why you continue to stare me?" He looked up at me, a faint veil of perspiration forming at his hairline. "Forgive my rudeness," he replied in an accent that struck me as affected. "It is just that you look like you are someone who could be in need of my services." His words and manner had about them an air of the illicit. I should have turned at that moment, but for reasons unknown when he gestured to the empty chair at his table and said, "Please. Sit." I complied.

"I couldn't help but notice your expression," he began. "Forgive my candor, but I detect an undercurrent of sorrow." I wasn't about to spill my heart to this stranger. "Ah, but I have been terribly rude. Let me introduce myself. The name is Mardoc." He handed me a business card with four words in block type, a telephone number and no address. It read "Pack Up Your Troubles." I put the card down on the table. "Exactly what business are you in Monsieur Mardoc?" He leaned forward and in a low voice said "Unhappiness my good man." I must have looked confused. "Let me clarify: removal and disposal." "I don't understand." I said. "How does one get rid of heartache?" he asked. "Time is the only balm," I answered. His face lit up. "Ah, but is it?" I was a bit taken aback by his question. "Oh, I imagine there are any number of vices that can numb the pain." I conjectured. "But I said 'get rid of' my good man. Not block out." He continued, "How much the better would it be if one could take all bad feeling, box it up and send it off to parts unknown." I snickered. "Nonsense." He smiled. "If you care to see for yourself, I will show you a warehouse full of emotional baggage long ago abandoned by my clients—thousands of square meters of cast off memories." He picked up a card and wrote an address on the back. "Come tomorrow morning and I shall show you." He pushed back his chair and rose from the table. "Again, please forgive me for being so forward." He gave a slight bow, turned and left the bar.

I don't know if it was that I sensed something criminal about him or whether his promise of sadness easily disposed hinted at something darker, something morally suspect and spiritually sinister, but I did not take him up on his offer. I left that place two days later for another outpost equally far from my past. That was decades ago. Still I wonder what might have become of my life if in fact I could have disposed of the cache of troubles that weighed down my heart.