Whenever I’m about to check out of a hotel, I have a burning desire to leave something behind in the towels that remain, folded and unused, on the shelf in the bathroom. It might be a note, or a dollar, or a photograph, or a wind-up set of chattering, plastic teeth. I don’t know–just something. Do the housekeepers check unused towels for such things? Or do they just assume they’re untouched, still ready for the next guest?
I like the idea of someone shaking open a towel and discovering what I’ve left. I wouldn’t want it to be a bad something. I’d want it to be a good, or at least neutral, something. Back in middle school, I once spent the night with a friend whose mother was, shall we say, a free spirit. She sent us out at midnight with two dozen raw eggs and a few rolls of toilet paper. We were pretty tame girls. I confess that we weren’t quite sure what to do with them–fortunately, the eggs only ended up on doors and windows and not cars. Oh, and I think we put some tennis shoes we found on someone’s front step in the creek but fished them out again the next morning. I’ve always felt bad about that night, wondered what dismay our victims must have felt. If I believed in Karma, I’d say that I’ve spent much of my life trying to make it up to them.
Anonymous action has a dual nature: It’s both Santa Claus and the cat-burglar. It’s picking up a stranger’s bill in a restaurant and writing a poison-pen letter to your boss’s wife. In any case, we want to make contact with others without risk to ourselves. And contact takes a certain amount of courage, doesn’t it? One doesn’t need to be too brave to do things anonymously. It’s easy when one is secretly passing out money and you know the recipient needs it. But what’s the psychic cost of sharing damaging secrets? Or doing another person harm by secretly causing them pain?
As a fiction writer, I can confess anything I want within my work with relative anonymity. I might reveal something about myself through a character’s action or flaw, but the reader will probably never make the connection. (More frequently, people who know me very well will pick up on things I never intended to show on the page.) The things about myself that I’ve intentionally put in my work aren’t salacious or even particularly noteworthy. But they’re there–tiny flesh hooks that attach the story to me forever. I’ve always had a confessional nature. Too confessional for some people, I’m told. Dark secrets fester. Confession–no matter who one is confessing to–cleanses.
For non-writers, the friendless, or the non-religious, the Internet offers the guilt-ridden a buffet of confession sites: Post Secret (mostly PG-rated, w/ pictures, also a series of books); SecretsAnon.com (apparently unmoderated, kind of gross); Five Secrets (moderated, still kind of Penthouse Letters-ish). I can spend hours reading the secrets told on these sites. I truly hope the most vile of them are made-up. But I wonder about the person who confessed that he had killed and dismembered a woman at Disney World in 1970. Creepy–even if it’s just a fantasy.
What do you do with your secrets? Or do you prefer to remain anonymous?