I don’t keep things. Journals get discarded when filled. My photo collection gets whittled down over and over again. My mind remembers the way old friends formed their letters. The dots of their i’s, the curve of their a’s. But I’ll never uncover intricately folded pieces of notebook paper containing their secrets.
Sometimes I remember an old picture I wish I still had. I catch myself hoping that someone held on to a copy and it will resurface someday. Show up in the mail with no return address as a reminder we used to be different people. Existence used to mean something else.
I remember the drawers full of loose paper and notebooks overflowing with words and pastels. Old one-hour photo envelopes worn around the edges and fingerprinted Polaroids. Emails long ago deleted. The recurring question directed at my mother, “Do you have any desire to keep this? Because if you don’t I’m going to throw it away.”
She often did and sometimes we come across an old homemade t-shirt. A picture of me at a highschool dance with a boy who would blow his head off eight years later. I can never decide if I’m glad she held on to the remnants. I’m never sure I like there is tangible proof of where I came from.
Most often not. I know the things I wrote about. I know the pictures we took. I know the tokens I chose to keep at the time and then later stop hanging on to. I don’t need reminders to remember all you.
Everything in our lives if tied to something by now. Every holiday that comes around you’re reminded of a specific one. Every movie I rewatch I remember another time I watched it. I remember driving to three different towns just to find a copy. All the songs I replay are forever connected to some mixtape or concert or long drive to nowhere. We are in no danger of forgetting. Even the things we would like to.
I worry that I won’t be able to make new connections. All those things are already connected to something. Elements only capable of forming so many bonds before they become stable, unreactive. That’s what I’m afraid of. That certain days and places and songs and movies and smells and sounds and times and shoes will always belong to a particular person, a specific point in my life. I don’t need to forget, but I also don’t need to always remember it so vividly.
I don’t mind you being there. I know that all you made me who I am, but I want to be able to attach something new. A canvas that gets painted over again and again. Reused.