I’ve started cleaning out old stuff. The storage spaces in the attic and the basement are full, and my apartment is a mess. Dresser drawers that haven’t been opened in over a year. Binders with old papers that I’ve filed for no obvious reason. Phone bills, electricity bills, bank statements from years back.
The space under my bed has gradually turned into a storage room. There are tools and extension cords. More piles of paper. Two porcelain dogs that used to belong to my grandmother. A shoe box with old mix tapes, Nirvana’s Nevermind album and recordings from our show in Normal, Illinois, in 1995. A wooden box containing tubes of oil paints and paintbrushes, some of them completely dried up. My old palette, still smeared with the paint from my last project, many years ago.
Why am I saving all this shit? For whom? Am I anticipating the future archaeological excavation of the future ruins of the house that I live in? As if my old bank statements, outdated garments and scribbled notes from university lectures in the late 90’s will tell someone something about me. As if someone will care.
Come Sunday night, I’m far from done, even though I’ve spent most of the weekend going through stuff. Sorting it into boxes and binders (too much), throwing it out (not nearly enough). Before calling it a day, I go to the recycling station with two big paper bags. Through the damp, dark January evening, down the hill, past the day-care center and the playground. Near the tall, yellow-brick block where I lived with my ex-boyfriend ten years ago.
Then it hits me, like a train, and I stop walking.
There will be nobody there after I’m gone. Nobody will wonder what my life was like before they were born. Nobody will want to play dress-up in my old clothes. Nobody will inherit my dark eyebrows, crooked smile or theatrical gestures. Nobody will seek their roots in the memory of me.
I am going to need a moving van.