Sunday, January 01, 2012

There Are Things

There are things you leave behind when you move across country that you don’t think you’ll need. Like books you read once but can’t remember. Like old nail polish. And a garage sale fondu set.

There are things you leave behind that you know you’re going to miss. Like your favorite sushi restaurant, crispy fall weather, riding the el train, Monday morning coffee with your best friend.

And then there are things you misplace. Things you know you packed. Things you tucked away in some labeled box and likely unpacked and put somewhere safe but after a couple months of living in the new apartment you just can’t seem to find. Like the silver spoon ring your Mom bought you in eighth grade or the last of your lavender bath salts.

Some of these misplaced things you don’t think to look for until you need them. Like the thin black belt you wear with your interview slacks, an extra ink cartridge, your therapist’s cell number, a seam ripper.

Yet some of these things are so big and so precious, you can’t imagine misplacing them. They’re substantial. They take up space. They’re things you have for a long time, things you protect and nourish and spill blood over and assume you’ll have forever.

Say you misplace one of those big precious things somewhere between Chicago and Los Angeles. You can’t be sure you had it when you left but you know you’d never leave without it. The last place you remember seeing it was in a coffee shop on Lincoln Avenue where they serve savory crepes, at the wooden table that tips when people pass by.

You’ve carried this big precious thing with you for years now. You love it. Even though it gets pretty heavy and sometimes it seems impossible to hold onto. But you know it was unmistakably present when you left the coffee shop on Lincoln Avenue that day, before the hazy week of packing and errands and making your way through your list of ‘lasts’ and, for now, goodbyes.

People who see it assume it’s a big sturdy thing. And for the most part, it is, but there’s one edge that is terribly fragile and gets chipped and can cut. So, surely, you packed it in the car with you, to keep it safe, instead of trusting those hasty movers to haul it across time zones. You wonder if it fell out at one of the Midwestern rest stops and rolled under the car.

Or more likely you absentmindedly left it somewhere. Because you’re new in town. Because there are so many interstates and farmers markets and bills. Because you are tired. Because you are distracted by palm trees and laundry and medication. Because sometimes you look as impossible to yourself as sunshine on swimming pools in the middle of November. Because you’re allergic to dairy.

When the ‘becauses’ run out you decide to go look for it. You check in every coffee shop, coffee house, church, yoga studio, and café you go to in LA. You talk about it. A lot. You spill more blood. You meditate and make deals with the Universe (or God specifically, in case it will help). You smoke and exercise until you hurt yourself and detox and drive to the ocean and try to finish that knitting project and buy things you can’t afford and throw things away to make more space and you eat and scour the apartment, pull things down from your carefully organized shelves, get the key to the storage unit, get the boxes out from under the bed, get down on your knees, shake your head and your spirit and check all the places you’ve checked a dozen times, wondering if the big precious thing is worth all this mess and fuss and heartache.

And somewhere around two in the morning, you finally stop, worn weary, and sit down at your kitchen table. You sit in one chair and then the next and then the next. You still can't believe one wooden table could be so different from all the rest.

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