I was packing up the joint, sorting through it:
Consider it spring cleaning. A much delayed spring cleaning, that is.
He left in the spring. It took four months to move on — but only two to remember how to breathe normally. And because he left in the spring, I skipped the cleaning this year and hoarded for a while. Not my own things: I don’t own much and prefer to live in open spaces, spartanly. But I do tend to hold onto other people’s things; their words, mostly.
I’ve stored the sound of his voice on my answering machine, his worded messages and a shredded napkin with his absentminded scribbles.
The sound of his voice — was the first to go. I’ve done that before, so I knew better: Holding onto the voice belonged to the memory, and it could be the hardest to forget.
Harder than his touch. His touch belonged to the skin. About a million skin cells would go every day, and I hoped they would take the tactile memories of him — with them.
But the voice: The voice belonged to the brain. It was more than skin deep. It sunk in and echoed around for a bit:
“Remember me, me, me… me.”
So, I removed it, quickly, surgically, no matter how much I wanted to hoard it. That very week he announced his departure — the voice had to go.
And I remembered thinking:
“Where does everybody go — when they go?”
So many times, I’ve heard lovers speak of needing their freedom. Does freedom really need to be negotiated? And how does love impede it, anyway?
And then, they speak of “not being ready”, not being “in that place”. What place is that? I mean I understand structure in storytelling: I do it every day. I’m a fucking mythologist! But to mold one’s life to a coherent line-up of well-timed events — that seems ridiculous, and somehow offensive, to tell you the truth. To tell you my truth.
And in the mean time, the skin continued shedding layers. It wasn’t following any particular chronology. It wasn’t determined by storytelling, and its structure: chapters, afterwords, closures, etc. Every day, about a million skin cells would go, and I would hope they took the tactile memories of him — with them.
The written messages would go next. At first, I would sort through them, like quirkily shaped pieces of a puzzle. I’d spread them out on the floor of the joint, long overdue for its spring cleaning. I’d tack ‘em onto the empty wall. I swear to god, I knew there was a whole picture somewhere in there, even though I’ve never seen it (not even on the box cover). If only I could figure out the line-up, I thought, I could understand “that place”. You know: “That place”, to which they go — when they go.
So, I would shuffle the worded messages, measure their jagged edges against against each other. I mean, I understand structure in storytelling: I do it every day. I’m a fucking mythologist! But with these bits that I was hoarding — all over my joint — something still wasn’t making sense.
Viscerally! Viscerally, I knew that something wasn’t complete. Perhaps, the picture wasn’t even there and all I’d been twirling in my fingers were orphaned pieces of multiple puzzles, as if solving a silly prank by a bored rascal. Soon, it all began to seem ridiculous, and somehow offensive, to tell you the truth. To tell you my truth.
So, the words would go, mere weeks after he announced his departure.
And I remembered thinking:
“Is he going — to ‘that place’?”
And in the mean time, the skin continued shedding layers. A million skin cells would go, methodically taking the tactile memories of him — with them.
But what to do with the shredded napkin with his absentminded scribbles? Where to store the fortune from a cookie that spoke of love and ended one of our shared meals? The ticket stubs. The birthday cards. The tags from my suitcase with which I travelled to meet him in my two favorite cities.
They were the palpable proofs of our story. Of our unfinished puzzle. And I would hoard them for a while (at least a season past the spring, to be exact, never having done any spring cleaning). My hopes for his change of mind had long been deleted along the sound of his voice. After a while, I didn’t even want a reunion, let alone a return. As much I as I could accept, he had departed for “that place.” You know: “That place”, to which they go — when they go.
I don’t go to “that place”, because the places where I dwell, I’ve chosen quite carefully; and I don’t take them for granted. I want to travel, sure, often alone to my two favorite cities. But I don’t crave being anywhere else but here. And if I do — I just go. That’s — my fucking truth!
Neither do I reconstruct my life to fit a story. There is no need for that: I am a fucking mythologist, I study stories every day! Besides, to mold my life to a coherent line-up of well-timed events — that seems ridiculous, and somehow offensive. It robs a life of its magical unpredictability. So, instead of waiting to be “in that place” — waiting “to be ready” — I’ve always found myself up for it.
All of it:
Life, and the humanity that comes with it.
Love, and the humility that precedes.
Loss, and the utter humiliation that often follows.
But in the mean time, through all of it — life, love, loss — the skin continued shedding layers. A million skin cells would go, every day, methodically taking the tactile memories of him — with them.
Perhaps, I was hoarding the palpable proofs of our story to teach the new skin cells about what was being mourned. That way, when the old skin crawled, they wouldn’t be clueless.
Eventually though, the new cells — took over. One morning, I woke up to find them in a majority; and they no longer wanted to hear the old story. They wanted new ones: new loves, stories, puzzles. So, the palpable proofs had to go.
The old skin cells, shed all over this joint, were the last to clean up. They had long expired, taking the tactile memories of someone I was now willing to forget — with them.
And so: It was time — for spring cleaning.
A much delayed spring cleaning, that is; but oh, so very timely!