Sunday, September 30, 2007

Yours, Mine, Ours

A friend of mine used to keep gifts and pictures related to his ex-girlfriends in boxes decorated with their names -- a serial monogamist, the boxes lined his closet like tiny little coffins, each one smaller than the last. His last love told him he'd have to get rid of the boxes which he refused. His past, he contended, was contained and refined to its essence. Unlike Bluebeard's infamous room, he'd taken care to put his past loves into a Dewey Decimal system of trinkets and tokens. I liked this idea -- it appealed to my sense of order. But instead of a box for every love, I decided that one box would do and spent a lot of time looking for something perfect, not too big (how much of the past do you want to drag around?) and not too small. The box I chose, a simple leather black box with a handle, serves as a repository of the past, instructions and cautions, like a pilot's black box, pinging up against the reality of the present. My friend's girlfriend left him after pilfering all his boxes one night and his past became hers, like a phantom limb, a pain that she couldn't see and couldn't medicate. And, of course, she became a box for someone else to worry about.

And the past carries that weight, yours, mine, ours, romances and friendships gone awry, gone away, just gone. We lose whole afternoons to it, all those missteps and petty miseries, the things we said and should not have, the things we did not and might have made a difference. But what's a writer to do? Spend entire days stepping back into that pool, the deep end if possible, taking stock and telling myself that it will all be fine, that I have gained as much as I have lost, that I would change nothing, no regrets right?, the Edith Piaf thing and I can't even think of her without being sad so there's so much for that, but that's not the story you're telling yourself today, the story we all tell ourselves for as long as we can, that things will be better, that they have to be better, this time, next year, no matter what the black box, the thing that identifies the living and the dead on planes, the recording that tells you what went wrong in the final minutes, that thing, says.

Michelle's Spell of the Day
"I think you have to pay for love with bitter tears." Edith Piaf

Cocktail Hour
The Swimming Pool

Freeze champagne into teeny-tiny ice cubes. I use ones shaped like the state of Texas to be festive, but any ice-cube tray will do. Put these little friends into a glass of champagne. Garnish with a chocolate-covered strawberry.

Benedictions and Maledictions
Happy Sunday!


Ropinator said...

I personally agree with this guy. You have to preserve "your history". I did mistakes in love and in other things, which I hate to admit because I believe I am perfect. These memories help us to remember to good and bad things and we can make the consequences.

Cheri said...

I tend to lose things over time so any boyfriend boxes that I had are now MIA forever. Thank God.

the walking man said...

I have no past and no plans for the future that can't wait until tomorrow. Does anyone really have a past or just tokens of a space they used to inhabit?


TWM just a bit slower and older

Charles Gramlich said...

I think we have a past, Mark. We just keep rewriting it until it bears little resemblance to what happened once upon a time.

eric1313 said...

Powerful and true.

And very, very well written. Especially the spiraling end paragraph, the way that huge sentence spins down like the metaphor you reached for. It worked.

JR's Thumbprints said...

It's hard to imagine finding out what went wrong from a black box, especially when someone's life was taken. Do we really need to know all the details to accept the end result? I often think "no,"--"no, we don't."

the walking man said...

my "past: really is just a series of events that led to my now...I am not sure that any of it is relevant or re-written. I know where I have been and I know what happened while I was there but but seriously what use is keeping trinkets of it?

I have a few objects, pictures of my mom for instance and my kids when they were younger but I don't often visit the past as it makes little sense to do so because nothing except your personal perception of it can change. But mine hasn't changed i don't think because I don't often go back there. Except in the therapists office and that is for her benefit of understanding what i a'ready understand.



Brian in Mpls said...

I usually keep a single picture and a single token whether it be a concert ticket or what ever then burn the rest

Milton Bradley said...

My uncle Herman had a black box on the bar in his basement. Push a lever on top of the box and it would rumble for a few seconds and then a small hand would emerge from a trap door on the black box's top and push the lever back and then disappear back into the box, waiting for the next person to start all over again.

whitenoise said...

I'm not a bone collector. A few pictures. That's more than enough...