There are always that many steps in packing. First comes that dreadful noise of cardboards scratching against one another, which sounds like an out-of-tune violin. Then I look around for bigger, sturdier possessions to fill the newly empty space, believing I can always tuck the tiny things amidst the layers of clothes and books and what-nots later.
I must be unlucky, because I have too many of these little unnamed things to bury them all away. A few of those, which I thought were lost or discarded along the past 8 years, somehow find a way right back to my face. The high-school yearbook covered by flakes of glitter, the oversized Metallica t-shirt, the set of woolen scarf gifted to me on a summer’s night, a Conn memorabilia here and there, an overdue postcard. Despite the wrong assumption, I still remember them well – all of the whos, whens, wheres were as transparent as a bus window. Blurred and dusted, yet it shows me just what I need to see – the movements, the sounds, the affairs that passed by and lingered within it.
Memories are emotionally constructed. As Julian Barnes said in his The Sense of an Ending, “What you end up remembering isn’t always the same as what you have witnessed.” People like to venture into their own twists and turns on that trip down memory lane. That inexpensive scarf suddenly represented embrace and warmth. The glance that happened for two seconds suddenly became a mamihlapinatapai that lasted a decade. Likewise, traces of devastation and heartbreaks are repressed the same way we kicked trash under the fridge hoping it will just “evaporate”. Many times we force ourselves to pretend it’s gone. Some other times, we just forget about its existence. But the moment we decide to move on we end up finding it in our baggage. And no matter how much we try to compress that baggage, we would never escape its burden.
And of course, there are things I believe are always there, just because. The finger-sized ekeka that I used to carry everywhere not for good luck, but for the comfort that somebody “came to Peru and thought of” me. The mixed tapes that sing songs about love, youth and changes. All of the pictures from summer camps. Every greeting card whose way to get to me is a story itself. Now I kept them in the bottom of a plastic box, but at some point in life, each and every of them has managed to keep me steady, even if just for a minute or two. The past looks lighter, the future easier when simple pleasures and sentiments stay the same.
I remember (un)packing a few years ago and missing one of these “simple pleasures.” An mp3 CD with the full discography of Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and The Doors. I couldn’t recall who made it for me, but I remember when. It was the same time disc trays were obviated from laptops and PCs. Needless to say, it ended up a memento for “that time when I was a wild, passion, young, guitarist-wannabe girl.” I dug through every corner and niche of the room for the next few days, but only ended up with more souvenirs to lump the cardboards. It didn’t take me any longer than that to call of the search, but I’m still not convinced that CD, that apocalypically-flat donut of plastic, is not somewhere around the house. It might be bookmarking an unopened book or stuck in the pocket of an ugly coat, and that if I look one step further, it might just as well be within my reach again.
Don’t we all have some kind of token that we hold on to like that – never to be exhibited, only kept for occasional nostalgia? And aren’t we all hauling some kind of baggage in our lives? In retrospect, how much have they held us back from moving faster, or further, or onto other directions, or from dancing as if our hands are falling off, or from swirling in the rain?
Sometimes, the strongest thing we can do is to let some memories and their corporeal illustrations go so we can be freer and lighter. Who knows, your baggage might not be spacious and your heart as empty as you believed them to be.
So, in the middle of an empty room, I can hear my breath echo against the white walls like farewell whispers. A part of my past is in its place, ready to be present in the future.