#501: STRANGE, BUT GOOD STRANGE
I am covered in bruises and mosquito bites and raw blisters and three split cuticles that bled into the tiny wells of my dried skin. Quite a few of our moving boxes have dots of my blood and sweat and that clear fluid that leaks out of infected sores. Luckily, I prefer to do all the unpacking myself, so no one else has to touch these piles of dirty boxes.
I love our new apartment. It is bright and airy and large with hardwood floors and at-least-ten-foot ceilings and the windows are at least seven feet tall and our portable dishwasher fits into the kitchen. I love it, but this move was somehow more work than any move I have ever made.
We worked for five days straight, and it was not just because we put off most of the packing until the last minute. Our stuff seemed to multiply. It was dirtier than I remembered. I let go of a lot of things.
Letting go of a lot of things was hard. It's harder now two and three days after giving it away than it was at the time. Still, though, at the time, I fingered my old army thermal shirt, stuck my index finger through its familiar hole along the bottom hem, and remembered what it felt like when I first put it on; it was a spontaneous gift from a person I admired at the time. My entire cassette collection dating back to the mid-1980s in its old-school faux wood grain box with three drawers is gone daddy gone; if I tried to play The Cure's "Standing on a Beach" or the Dead Milkmen's "Big Lizard in My Backyard", I'm sure the audio tape would have snapped under the pressure of the cassette deck's head. I even trashed my silver sneakers; in truth, I never even liked glitter, and they fit strangely, which is probably why they were five dollars eight years ago.
I used to throw everything out all the time. I own almost nothing from my childhood anymore and could not care less where it all ended up. This new level of packrattedness has developed since I married the Fiery One. I was twenty-eight then, and anything I owned at the time that I had accumulated throughout my twenties was still with me until three days ago.
Something tells me that my late-blooming transition into adulthood was not all that smooth. Am I there yet?
I am closer at least. I've dumped my silver sneakers, train engineer overalls, and army surplus clothing (although I had the sense to keep my boots). I am different than when I bought/acquired a lot of the items I did in my early and middle twenties. I am smarter and wiser and more creative and less self-conscious and taller, even. I stopped wearing and using and unpacking most of that stuff more than five years ago, but I held onto it until now.
I think I was unwilling to part with the accoutrements of that phase of my life, because it was the beginning of my separation from the religious culture in which I grew up and a movement toward a kind of life and a kind of self that I could live with. I did everything in large doses: three years of unemployment, an ended engagement, different lovers, a lot of LSD, a shaved head, hair grown long, a couple of stabs at a university education, vegetarianism, three different psychiatric diagnoses and medications, reams of terrible poetry and unfinished short stories, several apartments, a few pets, periods of fasting, a flirtation with other religions. A lot of this is normal for young suburbans with an unacknowledged sense of entitlement. It's what we do to escape the cookie-cutter homogeneity of the neighbourhoods our parents hoped would keep us safe and clean.
I left that kind of precarious lifestyle years ago, but I still liked to come across the evidence of it in my drawers and in the back of storage closets. I think it helped me to feel connected to my old city and the group of friends long separated that saw me through years of lesser and greater adventure. When it came time to pack up for this move, though, I suddenly didn't want to drag all of those things along with me anymore.
This was, and is, a confusing feeling. It's some sort of bon voyage to a cloying past that does active service for me less and less.
Maybe I let it go because I trust what is in my head and in my heart more now than I have since I lost the unfounded courage I took for granted before my teenage years pulled the ground out from under me. I no longer feel the need to carry these objects around to describe where I have been and how I got here. I don't feel the need of proof through show-and-tell. Believe me, I still have a multitude of emotional and psychological crutches, but that multitude has now been thinned by several large garbage bags and a door-sized shoe rack.*
It is strange. I feel a bit melancholic and yet unburdened. Sad, yet relieved that I get to be all here more of the time. It's kind of nice. Part of me still wants to lash out at all this clear thinking, though, and put on black eyeliner, shave my head, stomp around to some Einstürzende Neubauten or Skinny Puppy, eat a tab of acid, and then lie around outside and cry while the sun comes up.
* Yes, I held onto a monstrous and poorly-designed shoe rack out of nostalgia for over ten years. It was one of the last items I got rid of, and my irrational attachment seemed downright creepy, even to me. That last item cemented my belief that I was, indeed, committing a good work.