the kinds of things I now refuse to keep

I took apart a small cardboard box covered in shiny blue foil today. I made it out of scraps when I was a teenager, glued the dark foil onto the cardboard with navy nail polish, used a broken earring I found in a burned out house as a clasp. It went with the waterproof dead-drop that I put in the messy rose bush outside my bedroom window, my pre-internet solution for letters or presents to or from the people connected to my house.

The dead drop worked. Well, sort of worked. The blue box filled, but mostly with terrible things. So today I decided that it is time to let it go. I am finally loved enough to read through them and empty enough to throw them away. These bad memories are a country that I am going to burn down. By which I mean recycle.

Going through them, I discovered the letters inside the blue box are long folded and strange to read. Some of them have probably only been read once, while some are so creased and worn their paper feels like fabric. Either way, none of them are recognizable. Who were these people? My life! Such a terrible place. The majority seem from 1999, the year of the dead drop, but they range from ’95 to ’01. Most of the names are completely unfamiliar.

The first letter I read was a warning from someone I went to high-school with, “I saw your bruises. I’m worried. p.s. Don’t show him this letter.” Bruises? Him? I have no idea. Maybe it refers to the unstable teenager who sent me the barely legible poem I found next, “A thousand pardons / Won’t forgive / What I put you through / But do not worry / This shadows time has come / The crack of dawn / Unerring call / Alight upon my soul.” Yay. How tremendous. Discard pile.

“Spiritual doors just keep opening. After being locked into a three dimensional material world for so long, knowing there is more, occasionally expressing more… I felt a timelessness of spirit, I felt the point all souls meet when you spoke to me today, where a ray of light becomes part of the light itself..”. Signed, “the busker who saw you through the window”. Metaphor? Probably not. It’s the sort of thing that would happen when I had a dead-drop, so it fits the history, but I have no idea who it’s from.

The next I pulled was six pages long, describing some sort of unspecified accident that ended someone’s martial arts career. It’s signed with a scribble I cannot understand, but seems to begin with a D. Going further into the box, it turns out that this is where this task gets dark.

Whoever “D” was, they were prolific. They wrote profoundly dull letters and insisted on referring to me by pet names that border on insulting – Angelface, Sweet Stuff, Honeybear, Doll, Bombshell. (Almost all of them are written on stationary branded with the name of a collections agency. Maybe where “D” worked?) They read like an imaginary film noir relationship where I star front and center. “I apologize for getting up in that guy’s face last night, I just don’t like people who threaten my happiness, and you and I are so happy together. It was so good to kiss you after I bashed that guy’s face.” Given the content, I suspect that they wrote me without my knowledge, the letters like a journal, then delivered them in a anonymous batch. I remember we shut the mail-drop down because someone was exceptionally creepy. I can’t remember specifics, but I’m guessing “D” was the reason.

No wonder I hate this place. Special mentions to the note threatening to skin my cat, the note that accuses me of being involved in an acquaintance’s murder, the come-back-to-me letters signed in blood from the aforementioned teenager who used to leave vials of blood in my house, and the note that reads only, “I don’t care what the teacher made me say – I’m not sorry I set you on fire.”

all of this moving things around

Fifteen. House-hunting like an accessory to murder – low, dark and right next to the highway. A typical cheap-for-a-reason basement flat. There were only three tones: a dull seventies brown, fake plastic brass, and ultra-beige. Tolerable, however, except for the landlord who lived upstairs. He wore beer-logo meshback caps, greasy cowboy shirts, skinny tight jeans, and a threatening leer so cliche you’d think he practiced. (“You should see this new sex-toy I just bought.” he’d say, body contorting as he mimed, “It has settings from m-MM-mm to WHEE!”) He was like a stain you could not wash away. The Twilight Zone sound of his television through the floor was a muffled nightmare of Disney movies and pornographic films – Anastasia and the Little Mermaid gasping with hot girl on girl action, intercourse intercut with technicolour, lurid and loud – that he never turned off. Unlike our hot water tank, which became a battle ground. He would sneak downstairs while we were in the shower and close the valves. When we continued to turn the tank back on, he finally removed the handle altogether, knocking it off with a wrench, while dropping hints that we could come up to talk about it with him anytime we wanted. Any time.

Fifteen point five. Halfway up the mountain, still on the North Shore, but now over by the hospital, our friend who lived in our walk-in closet with his awful girlfriend has a room all to his own. Instead of a bed, I have an six by six antique apple crate full of pillows I’ve scoured from every thrift shop I can access by public transit. My room is the room with the miniature chandelier and the attached bathroom, but only because I won the coin-toss.

Sixteen. I decide to overcome my fear of ‘physical intimacy’. The girls I know, all three of them, recommend I have a one night stand. The perfect answer to a shallow prayer, he walks out of the dark at Brenda’s one-year anniversary wake looking to find friends and score some weed. Long gold hair, almost gossamer under the street-lights, classically chiseled features and nordic blue eyes. Not the brightest crayon in the box, but twenty-something enough for teenage me. We went back to his place that night, an upstairs room in a shared Victorian house over by Commercial and First. A week later, by the time we actually got around to sex, his room was my room. I’d paid rent, moved things in, and glued quietly accurate constellations of tin star-shapes to the ceiling. The landlady, who lived across the hall, was an eccentric, middle-aged brunette who survived off dubious government cheques, letting her house to rent, and celtic cloaks she made out of doghair collected from local groomers. Her only serious drawbacks were an unlikely fetish for the pop-star, Christopher Isaac, that involved energetically masturbating to his music while in the gigantic clawfoot bathtub, and an irrational hatred for our friend, the painter one room over. Not only did she flood the landing, (water blackly seeping under our doors), we all become dangerously addicted to billiards as a way to get out of the house.