My best friend’s dad died and it really fucked me up. They didn’t have a funeral or a wake and so the usual avenues of grief were cut off to me. I redirected all of it inside and now I’m thinking about my parents getting old and passing away.
And then I look around this house and I feel like a hoarder. This was once my grandparents’ beautiful little row house and I’ve let it go downhill. I feel their ghosts shaming me. My most vivid memory of the old man is him washing dishes with the drying towel slung over his shoulder. He’d stand over you at the table waiting for you to finish your food so he could get on with it and be done. Now I just let dishes pile up. No one’s coming over.
This house was a busy thoroughfare when my mom’s mom was alive. Everyone would stop by. Grandkids were dropped off. People eating; sitting around inside or on the porch. Now the porch is dusty and unused. I don’t make as good of a sentry guard as my mom’s mom. She was nebby. That means nosey around here. Knew everyone and everything that was going on the street. She’d be the first one to gossip about the comic-book hoarder who lives at the end of the block.
I moved some boxes around the other day but it just felt like I was playing Tetris for an hour and I gave up. It’s frustrating to remember what this house looked like before I took over. My grandparents must have had more possessions than I do. Yet it doesn’t feel as spacious in here. I’ve tried confining all the boxes to one room, thinking it will seem more open in the rest of the house. It works until I start dragging boxes back out of the room to look for something. Then eventually putting the box back is like another round of Tetris.
When PictureBox closed I bartered with Dan to get some boxes of my own books. Not long after, FedEx unloaded a stack of boxes on my sidewalk. They were about the size of a compact car. You can fit a small car inside a row house, but it’s tight. And if the car is in bits and pieces all over the house it takes awhile to reassemble it in the basement. I did that today. I picked up all the parts of the car pretending to be furniture and parked it all in the coal cellar.
I’ll sell them someday is what I tell myself. Another part of me hopes flood or fire will just rid me of all this paper. Paper, paper, paper, everything’s paper. The only stuff I keep is my art and my books. All paper. The basement is a dangerous place for newsprint. A few years ago my basement flooded and I lost boxes and boxes of comics. Bricks of newsprint that looked like they had been dipped in glue when it all dried. Since then I’ve been keeping all my comics upstairs in a bedroom. I feel like I have lost, sold or thrown out most of the junk. What I am keeping is manageable even if it’s frustrating to play Tetris every time I go in that room.
I keep the other rooms in the house relatively empty but I know it’s just a game I play with myself. I hide stacks of books and boxes of random drawings and scraps around the house like I used to hide cigarettes for myself when I tried to quit smoking. The old man used to hide a half pint of vodka in a Cracker Jack box in the kitchen cupboard. He thought no one knew but we all knew. It was just a game he played with himself.