I had a favorite pair of sneakers once. I think I bought them at some discount store, a size nine and a half in a box underneath all the pixie sizes in the shoe section, an overstock item from some fancier store somewhere in northeast ohio. I’ve looked since then for a shoe that matches those purple pumas, the purple that I wore right into dingy brown, but I never bothered to check the name of the style when I bought them and so when sidewalks finally claimed the soles of those sneakers I had no hope of replacing them. I wore them once in a while anyway, avoiding rainstorms and mud. The last doorframe I traversed wearing them was that of a teahouse in little italy, and I left them in a box under the counter, thinking I’d retrieve them later as I put on a different pair of shoes. I quit my job before going to pick up my pumas.
A champion at cutting my losses, I’ve left a Hansel-and-Gretel trail of artifacts in various workplaces and housing situations, with ex lovers and ex therapists: I think of nothing but escape when I feel the need to flee. Everything but the clothes on my back, as the adage goes. I’m refugee. I’m a cowboy.
Among the more interesting things I’ve lost in my hurry include a couch, a bicycle, several boxes of books (both textbooks and novels), an heirloom chest of drawers, an entire collection of cookbooks, the negatives to several of the best photographs I took as an undergraduate, a Wusthof chef’s knife, and several personal journals from my middle school years. Some of these things I still hope to get back. Others are gone for good.
I am sorry I lost those journals—not so much the knife, although I know what it cost and it certainly cut shit well. What bothers me about losing the journals is the fact that I lost some personal history, as well as a fair bit of trust. I was seeing a therapist at her office in a squat brown commercial park out east, begging for some affirmation and direction, and after months took a chance and shared some writing from a particularly troubled school year. I hated, always hated, looking at those entries after the fact; I was silly as a seventh grader, probably in avoidance of the painful things happening around me, and the childishness of my middle-school words made me sick as a young adult. I was smarter than that, at twelve. I was feeling things so much bigger than what my writing suggests my heart capable of. My brother’s illness wrecked my family with volume and violence, and we steeped in long-term effects of his nightly outbursts after he finally calmed down or went to bed. The goofy girl in the journals I showed my therapist was acting like an idiot to mask, or squelch, the terror and mounting, chronic anxiety she felt when she should have just been dealing with getting a period or crushing on boys.
I had hoped that sharing those entries with someone licensed and trained to interpret human emotion and behavior would help me figure out what was wrong with me then, as a 21 year old. Rather, I don’t think my shrink even read my notes, and shortly after sharing them, she and I had a battle of wills and I left her practice. My notebooks might still be in her office, irretrievable now, in a barrack of a suburban office building. They might also be long since trashed. Any notebooks I’ve filled up since then remain in boxes under my kitchen counter.
I said I was sorry that I lost my middle school notebooks. That is true, but I don’t regret leaving that relationship. I actually don’t regret leaving at all. I’m terrible at making decisions (ask a friend of mine how long it takes for me to pick a beer) but once made, whatever I chose is usually the best thing I’ve ever done. Leaving hurtful situations, even if the exit costs me a collection of books or a single speed road bike, can’t be bad, ultimately. I sort of enjoy the purge.
It is worth examining what exactly makes me feel like I need to flee in the first place, and that I will. This post came from a mental list of items I’ve left behind, though, and for the sake of brevity and humor, I think I’ll leave it at that: the case of the missing Wusthof.