Boxes strike terror in my heart, the ones crammed with books and papers in particular. I will procrastinate sorting them until pushed to the wall. It is not that I am lazy or disorganized; I am just scared of hurting. And so the black containers sit scratchy and sore like corns on the toes, darkly nagging while I get on with the humdrum, telling myself, “Soon!”
It begins with a reluctant dragging of a chair close. The lid clang is invariably accompanied by a sharp intake of breath. It takes more than a day. The first contact is a quick skim. I avert my eyes from the familiar covers and dog ears. They threaten to take me back to all that I have made my peace with. I am sure and strong now, more whole than I remember being. A time travel back past blocks and breakers, rasps. I’d rather be.
Technically, the contents are inanimate. There are diaries, autograph books, drawing journals, song records, dedications, notes, scribbles, letters, tickets, domestic accounts and to do lists; quite easily dismissed if I did not look too close. But of course I pause. The certainty takes root that this junk does not mean as much to any other being so why bother. “Let them chuck it all when I am gone,” is my next thought. For as long as I live, these yellowing papers are proof and a record of my evolution.
I am convinced that words do not carry our stamp, as much as our papers do. It is on parchment that we leave our life’s trail. In those mildewed and brittle covers lie our sleepless moments, the weakness in our knees, our constricted throats, the airiness of our being and the pain we have learnt to numb. No matter how bland and controlled and objective modernity brings us up to be, humans are visceral beings, ecstatic and agonized by turns. It is this gut wrenching reawakening that keeps me at bay from box full of papers. There are reminders there of what I was and what I might have been and what I chose to be. I go still at inked proofs of forgotten bonds; of friends outgrown; of sentiments faded; of days done.
It is not a place I can revisit. So I grudgingly toss some measly fliers and newsletters to justify the sorting. The rest goes all back in another metal case. I will likely not open it for another ten years but knowing it is there somewhere is enough. I wave off the “raddiwala” who has been eyeing the fraying mound, inching closer. My dismissive gestures get louder; all of a sudden I think of him as a Psychosurgeon advancing to perform a lobotomy.