Toronto
3 min

Packing & purging

The bad memories just won't fit

All of our stuff is in boxes again. Andrea and I are about to embark on yet another move, at the worst time of year, the fourth in two years on our collective moving calendar.

Toronto is like that; lesbians are like that. Progress is quick, we’re moving up, we’re moving on, we’re getting down to the stuff my 10-year-old self used to gag at: a real house, a real job, a family. Every time we move, we end up with less stuff. Packing is like a purging of my previous skin, an internal scrub with Comet and a mop. It’s gritty and annoying but the result is a mind so clean you can eat off it, a clear spot for better spills, empty drawers for better stuff.

The patio is already overflowing with garbage bags. We open up old containers tentatively as we sit side by side on the dusty parquet floor. We open up old scars. We unlock old secrets we forget we haven’t shared, or we forget that we shared them when we hadn’t fallen in love yet and they didn’t weigh a thing. We want to know, but we don’t want to see. I am sensitive to what she has kept. She gauges my grip on old photographs, watching how I hold them before throwing them down. This stays, this goes. Most of it goes because I can’t remember why I ever thought it should stay, at least not today after all this time.

Guilt doesn’t fit in a box. I am throwing out birthday cards from the family members who love me so well on paper. I am throwing out pieces of e-mail poetry, one saying “you cheated” even if you never fucked her. I am throwing out the hair clips of a girl I slept with just because she was there, just because we were there and it was winter at Glendon and she burned some nice incense.

I am throwing out the letter I wrote to my mom, which said, “It’s okay if you choose to ignore my queerness, there is more in me to love than that.” I am throwing out the number of the friend I’ve been hoping to reconcile with since September four years ago. I am throwing out the nomination sheet I never managed to fill out for the best teacher I ever had, a women’s studies prof who took me from “I hate men” to “I hate the values we as a society breed in little boys.” I will have to find another way to say thank you.

Enlightenment doesn’t fit in a box. I am throwing out the pregnancy test, the epilator, the shaving mitt. I am throwing out caffeine pills, foundation and cologne. I am throwing out the rainbow belt and the bleach kits. I am throwing out porn I never got off to, books I never read, clothes I never wore. I am throwing out the lyrics for “McDonald’s Girl,” researched with love by one who never got “barenaked,” by one who liked me better than I liked myself, who was cooler than me because she understood that showing vulnerability makes you human, not ugly.

I am throwing out a folder full of words I never said to the boy who shadow danced over my stomach in a badly-pitched tent on a cold autumn night. His shadow seemed to crush me, until I woke up and realized it wasn’t me that he’d crushed but just the tiny vial of trust I still had in men who drank.

History doesn’t fit in a box. If it did I would package up my most painful stories, my goriest battles, my worst defeats. I would pack them away until the day I felt strong enough to go through them and say, “Now kids, look what I learned when I was 26 years old.” Even knowing that history can’t be preserved (that I remember pictures instead of my sister), I have been keeping the most ridiculous of things — the torn sheet of an agenda a girl wrote her name on, drawings of details I would blush to photograph. I have been keeping a myriad of morphing I love yous: a toothbrush, a house key, a pair of red underwear that never fit me right.

I haven’t kept these things to remember people or moments — those are trapped in my head like moths in a jar, dying or faking it beyond my control. I’ve kept these things in fact to maintain a vulnerable ego that likes to be reminded she hasn’t put all of her eggs in one basket.

So I’m throwing them out because I’ve burnt the house down. I’ve escaped with a snowboard, a marriage licence and a folded ticket to Sinead O’Connor at the Koolhaus. All my eggs sit nestled in her beautiful hands, blue and fragile but united, not a single life held back. If the basket breaks I’ll lie splattered on the sidewalk, no bullshit to catch me, no box to break my fall.