Twenty years has passed since the heist. During those twenty years, I moved up and down the New Jersey coastline twelve times, once to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and back to New Jersey again, which means I’ve packed and unpacked that many times. Before each move, I lightened the load, truncating all that wasn’t needed or wanted. The box survived every truncation.
Each time it surfaced, I remember thoroughly examining the box, running my thumb across its smooth silver, inspecting its tiny hinge, and opening its lid to find: nothing. Relieved that the box still belonged to me after all these years, but annoyed that its purpose refused to be revealed, I packed it away, again and again, until next time and the time after that. At times, I was annoyed simply because I owned such a useless object: a stolen box that held nothing, incapable of holding anything, that lived two decades packed inside another box that was perfectly capable of fulfilling its life’s purpose of holding things within itself.
This tiny, useless box outlived every box that carried, stored, and protected it. While each of those boxes served its purpose and quietly, cyclically, turned back into dirt, the silver box incubated within.