Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Life on the Curb

I've been cleaning out my apartment for the last two years, in anticipation of this month's move.

But now it's getting really hard.

After I'd already dragged some shelves out to the curb for the trash collector or garbage-pickers, Edith came over on Sunday night to help wrap up the glasses and dishware and started asking the hard questions.

"Do you really need this many plates?"

"But I already got rid of a bunch of them!" I protested.

"OK, just asking. And you want to keep all of these glasses?"

"Yes! It's my Evinrude glass from The Rescuers! And my Pepe Le Pew glass!" I pleaded.

"And these shotglasses...?"

"They're the only ones I'm keeping!" I was really trying to keep it together.

My mother compulsively cleaned out the house regularly, purging herself of old belongings, and forcing me and my sister to do the same. Every spring and/or fall, she'd force us to take inventory of our records and get rid of ones we never listened to. It was always hard for me to get rid of possessions I'd worked so hard to get, but when forced, I regrettably sacrificed my Urban Cowboy soundtrack and Disco Duck album.

There's a scene in The Virgin Suicides (the movie and the book) in which Lux's mother punishes her for missing curfew by threatening to burn all of her rock and roll records. Lux drags the record crate down the stairs with difficulty - probably more than physically necessary - and sobs and begs her mother to stop with every record that gets tossed into the fireplace. When the fumes prove more trouble than they're worth, her mother brings the records outside and leaves them on the curb.

I feel like I'm being punished.

I have to sell the couch I waited seven years in New York to buy, a couch I was so proud of that I held a housewarming party in its honor. I have to sell it because after August 31, I have nowhere to put it. And frankly, I could use the money.

I have to sell my TV, VCR, DVD player, and stereo components because I have nowhere to put them either, and it seems like a waste to keep them in storage. I rarely watch TV, and never use the other electronics, but trading in my boom box for a real stereo rack system in the late 90s felt like such an accomplishment, yet another step towards living in a real apartment and not just a transplanted dorm room.

Unlike my mother, I'm not a very materialistic person. I don't feel the constant need to buy things. I never developed a taste for expensive handbags or shoes. But the few things I have - crammed into a studio apartment - sometimes feel like all I have.

After this apartment is gone - an apartment I've grown to hate, and be imprisoned by - what is there left? No job, no office, no bed, no children, no pets. My music, dishes, movies, mementos locked away in storage. Things I've used and worn over the last 17 years since my parents kicked me out (some relics from childhood, longer) now being used and worn by somebody else, maybe smelling like me, tasting like me. Will they one day feel heartbreak when they put on that dress, a heartbreak of unknown origin inherited from the unknown prior owner?

So what am I being punished for? Quitting a job that would have killed me if I hadn't killed it first? Allowing my parents to disappear quietly? Being so foolish as to move to New York City in the first place?

Maybe it'll get easier with every load I roll over to Goodwill in a cart, with every shelving unit I leave in shambles among the black garbage bags and blue recycling bags from the restaurant downstairs. I guess it's too late to stop now.

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