I’m not quite sure how it’ll end, but I know how it began. Boxes. That’s how you came here. In boxes to be picked up and shipped out, to be stored away until they are needed again.
And they are after one thing or another happened. They are dusty from the last time, and as you pick out the gray specks, you try to remember it all: trophies, rocks, bug collections, hockey games, food, karate, ballet, girls, boys, friends, enemies, pencil shavings, bad art, bad – or maybe you should say poor – writing, a computer, a girlfriend, another one, bad aphorisms like three times is the charm, fights, familial bickering, a knotted kite string for facial hair, a late night that pours into an early morning come to mind almost immediately. But it’s hard to dissect one form another. Thick goo glues each event, object, or ideal together with an impenetrable bond. Each blur into another to create pieces that are fuzzy and incomplete. Without the whole, there is no single event, and yet here you are trying to parcel each one neatly and with some semblance of organization.
More memories race alongside each time you do, and the boxes start filling. A snake plush toy finds its way among a Doris Lessing book. A pillow sits beside a plant. And so on until a life fills the emptiness of a box, and the place where the life was lived, in turn, becomes empty. Here you are, too, standing in between both.
You grab a blank sheet. It is the only thing that hasn’t been occupied with anything from your past. So you write, if only for consistency’s sake: you reach a connection with a place and then you grow and it doesn’t and here you are, an old grouch with a belly coming on and a hairstyle you can’t quite identify and are those pieces of dead skin there or just dust mites? Is there a difference?
You knew once and there’s a book here you knew it from. You pull it out from a bookshelf. Fascinating Facts about Nature. A faded popup bear greets you. You flip through the pages. Did you know that the blue whale is the largest animal in the living? Did you know that there are over 1,000 different types of plants in the Arctic? Did you know that once elephants crossed the Himalayas? You once did, but now you don’t. You didn’t even know you didn’t know, did you?
You didn’t, you think. You try to write the facts on the sheet of paper but before you can finish the sentences, you are called down and you have to keep moving. Where are you, Kacper, you hear someone call. Here you are, you answer. Here you are in your room where you’ve felt both happiness and sadness and know aren’t sure which to feel. Maybe both. Maybe neither. Maybe somewhere in between, a state between living and dying, breathing and not.
Here you are doing both and neither and in between too. You try to write that down too but you are called down again. We have to leave soon, you hear. We have to beat traffic.
Other people will be doing what you’re doing, and there they are, doing things similarly but different too. You wonder what they feel. Not out of some voyeuristic intention, but because it might help you understand what you’re supposed to feel now.
There are times you dulled yourself to feeling anything, where the sheer thought of any extreme was alarming enough that you drank or played videogames or did both. You told yourself you’d stop, but it’s four a.m. and here you are. Just one more, just one more and that’s it.
When you finished that one or that one too, you tried to read. Some of those books are in the boxes somewhere. You can’t remember where, though.
Some parts of them are scribbled on the walls. They might help you comprehend how to feel. You cram your nose to the pencil markings. Your walls are covered in these little bits you liked or wanted to recall, but after exposure to the sun and moisture in the room, the majority of the phrases are unreadable. They’re hieroglyphics of your own creation. You think that metaphor was written on the wall once.
You want to write it down on the blank sheet just in case it wasn’t, but here you are, a writer who knows that writers never write anything intentionally redundant.
The voice calls again: We have to beat traffic, Kacper.
You need to write one thing, though. A new thought. An original thought. Not something touched by what was or will be, but solely by your present. There is no past, though it lies in memory. There is no future, though it lies in anticipation. There is only this idea you have now, something you haven’t had before. You jostle the white paper down with its half-finished facts and carve into it: you’ll move and move on too and that’s part of life – moving until you can move no more.
For Christ Sakes – are you done packing? Another voice asks. You check. There’s nothing else left to move. The pen is still.
So you waddle down the stairs with boxes too big and hands too small. A Lego figure falls out. You try to pick it up. The box falls as you bend forward. You spill out with it. Your eight year old arm has fallen to the ground. Someone pick it up, please. It’d be nice to take along. You might need it. And there, in another box, is your twelve year old haircut. It sticks up all on its own, like a cat landing to the ground. And there is a your five year old leg sawed off and wedged into cardboard. Where’s the blood, you want to ask.And who sawed it off, you want to add to whoever will listen.
And then while you’re searching for the blood, while you’re finding a leak in a box labelled shirts and pants, and while you’re hoping B+ does not stain, you wonder where you are. You look to the back of the car. You see that your limbs poke out; scabs of flesh are stuck to the fridge; and a few missing teeth jingle around along with the cups. Then you see it: it’s you as you are, sitting with a slight hunch in your back, a strange smell emanating from your shorts, and you’re coughing, not quite sick, but not quite healthy either. You raise your right hand and it raises your left in tandem. You shake your leg and it shakes your other leg all the same. It’s you, but not you too.
Or maybe it’s just your twin, and you’re not sure because you’re moving again, and things are piling up, and you can no longer see who you are or where you are and how what you look like combines into both those questions.
Things happen. Then other things happen too. And you’re you, but different because of one thing or another. You can’t remember which. The younger you could, but he’s gone now. He was left behind when that one thing happened. You are all that remain, and part of you, maybe that little bit that he used to fill, wishes that it – you – was more.
Then, you arrive. You empty. You fill. You will empty some day soon.
But before you do, you realize that you forgot your comb. You need to do your hair each morning. How could you be so foolish? How could you be you, a guy who is so foolish? How could you repeat such a foolish literary device?
Am I supposed to answer?
Here’s my answer: I don’t know.
After everything, that’s it?
Well why don’t you know?
Because here I am in a new place as a collection of old things and I’m a fool still.
So am I, I think.