Monday, January 3, 2011

Assigning Value

Friday, I turned in the keys for my apartment in the city and removed my last item, a twelve-speed bicycle. I had met my landlord on my lunch break and had to keep my bike with me the rest of the day, and because I never use the bike rack in my trunk--it's complicated with all these latches--I was determined to fit the bike in the back seat of my two-door Toyota.

I got the door on the passenger-side closed, but alas, I couldn't get the driver's-side door shut. In order to get out of there quickly (had my landlord noticed the basketball-sized coffee stain on the carpet?) I decided to hold the door as shut as I could while I drove my stick shift back to work. A couple things worked in my favor: 1) the apartment was less than two miles from the library, and 2) it was about sixty degrees on that last day of December.

After work I was able to jam the bike inside the car with the help of a coworker. I did have to climb in the passenger-side, but we managed to get all doors closed while both the bicycle and I were inside the car--no way I'd drive twenty miles up the interstate with only my grip keeping the door from flying open!

So now, everything is here. Me and all my stuff. I hold onto these things like they're a part of me, like without them I won't be whole. Trying to sort them and discard some has been a meticulous process. Each item I hold and inspect. I have letters from a pen-pal in seventh grade; she described swim team and raising money for a school trip. I have a dozen paintings (if not more) from a former boyfriend, an artist. I have incomplete journals and sketch pads. I have a giant stuffed penguin given to me while I was in the hospital. I have memorabilia from my first trip to France over fifteen years ago.

How can I look at or touch any of these things and not linger on the memories they evoke? And how do I say one memory's worth holding onto while another one isn't?

I see my faulty logic--throwing away a ticket stub from an Indigo Girls concert I saw with good friends my junior year of college isn't the same thing as throwing away the friends, just as getting rid of a birthday card from when I turned twelve doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate the sentiment eighteen years ago... I know that the objects in themselves don't have any value; I assign it.

My bicycle is in the garage now. I don't think I've ridden it since high school -- one of the tires is flat, the chain has come off, and who knows what damage I did by stuffing it in a compact car. It's just another one of those Things that, in their current state, don't serve any function and just take up space. But maybe in the future, I'll fix it and ride it. Maybe that card, that stub, that penguin will become a detail in a story. Maybe they'll trigger some idea and allow me to make a connection. Who knows?

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