Baggage is what we acquire during the travels that make up our lives. Before long, we find ourselves haunted by the past, and suddenly overwhelmed by things we thought were neatly tucked away. Nothing stays neatly tucked away. That’s why we tuck them away. We never truly want to let go.
Allow me for a moment to paint a picture of my current living arrangement. I live with my parents, along with a sister, who, unlike myself, appears to be going places in life. But there seems to be one cancer running through the entire family – the four of us, each in our own way, seem to take a very long time to do things, or rather, we put things aside, fantasizing that we might someday get back to them, but the truth is that the old crap just gets piled up, never being discarded, only differed.
Our home is a warehouse, filled with musty old boxes of our old things. I’ve kept all of my old toys, perhaps because I feel they might have some commercial value, though I haven’t been able to find many of the boxes I packed, since at this point, they have been pushed towards the back of what seems like an endless sea of boxes, that layers both of our basements, our kitchen, and other parts of our house. My sister collects manga, toys and other knick knacks, which for years, left her bedroom crippled with unusable, and frankly unlivable space. Our kitchen table, and our basement staircase are completely lined with her binders and university textbooks. Our kitchen appears to be her workstation, with books spread all over the surface. We have a table for six, where there’s often hardly room for three. My mother collects music, and all sorts of weird cooking utensils, and tins, my god does that woman have a lot of tins.
But the three of use are in awe of my father. He buys a DVD once every few days, slipping it in with the rest of our horde of possessions, perhaps hoping no one would notice. I cannot recall the last time he ever watched one of them. I suppose he plans to. That’s the point of this entry after all. And for years, and years, he taped every movie and many of the primetime TV shows that aired, stacking tape upon tape in room upon room until the house and its closets were full. Our home is a library of recorded VHS tapes, DVDs, and all his books, only they aren’t in any particular Dewey decimal order. Yet he seems to be able to file these things away, and find them again somehow. I’m never sure whether to be appalled or impressed.
My mother often tells me how much she hates it, this pack-rat tendency he has, which is when I point out that she does it too. We all do. We’re a pack-rat family. We’ve even taken on all of my deceased grandfather’s things, as well as my grandmother’s boxes upon boxes of ugly old paintings, 30 years worth of wool cones and other trimmings that she insist are extremely valuable, though as hard as I’ve tried to help find buyers for all of these antiquities, the only person who truly values them, is her. Oh, she doesn’t value them enough to pay for proper storage until it can be sold, but she is prepared to have us do it. So there all these boxes sit, flooding and choking our living space, at this point all too overwhelming to deal with, so we just swim on past it.
I didn’t just start this entry to talk about our house; I just thought it made a good metaphor for our lives. The baggage I really want to talk about today is an old wound that keeps reopening, even through I try hard to keep it tucked away, and I think it’s finally time I dealt with it.
I lived in another city for a few years, before moving back in with my parents. In this city, I had my own apartment, which at the time was also filled with boxes of junk that mainly my parents thought I ought to have. One or two of them probably never got opened, but I digress. In that city, a bigger brighter city than this snowy, civil servant infested hell hole, I had a beautiful, wonderful girlfriend. She cared about me more that I seemed to fathom – certainly a lot more than all my previous girlfriends, who cheated on me and ultimately dumped me for guys who treated them like the cheap tramps they saw themselves as. This one would never ever do that to me, and it was almost as though I lacked the maturity to handle that. For a time, she and I were happy together. In the end, we were together for almost two years, (maybe it was closer to a year and a half), and I broke up with her. The reason I gave is one that has haunted me for years, and sometimes I think I’m losing my mind, because I still can’t shake it from my memory. It still feels like I uttered these words to her yesterday.
“I don’t love you, and I never did.” Now, I know this sounds cold, and I won’t say it wasn’t, but I need you to understand that I was in tears when I said this. And I don’t cry. In fact, that’s the last time I really cried. I couldn’t believe I was saying it, and I suppose what I want to do now is declare that I didn’t mean it. I cannot possibly have meant it.
I worked so hard to get this woman to give me a chance, (I must have courted her for months), and when she finally did, she was glad. Part of the attraction to me in the end was how deeply I seemed to care for her. There was another man she was torn up about at the time, but she knew he would be for her what I was willing to be. After having met her just once, I found myself dreaming about her. She was everything that the sort of person I am would want. She got my jokes. Even the lame ones made her laugh.
My previous girlfriend never laughed at my jokes. She just chalked it up to my stupidity, and slept with my best friend. She laughed at just about everything he said, even when he was serious. Even thinking about it now, it make my blood boil. But only a little. I have since forgiven both of them, if not for the sake of our friendship, out of a profound sense of apathy. Neither he nor she are frankly worth my lingering anger.
With this new woman, it was the difference between heaven and hell, and somehow my ex and this woman were friends. I couldn’t take my eyes off this woman.
Well, they weren’t friends when she found out what my ex did to me, but that’s all long past now. I speak to this ex more freely now than the women I still love.
That’s right, I said it. I still love her. I never stopped. And it hurts. When my mother brings it up, I just want to scream at her. “Have you spoken to her lately? She was such a sweetheart.” Goddamn it, I know that! You don’t think I know that? You don’t think I spend hours every day beating myself up over it. I’m a moron. I took the one meaningful relationship I ever had and I flushed it down the toilet. And I hate myself for it.
So here I am, sitting in a dark room, a ghost is the shell of my old life. They say that spirits linger in this world because they’ve unfinished business, and I know I’m still alive, and that I’m being maybe a bit melodramatic about all this, but I think it’s called for. My unfinished business is to tell her the truth. I’ve been hiding from it all of it for so long that at this point it seems overwhelming, covered in dust and cracked from years of neglect. When you’re with a woman, or a man, you’ll often feel like (s)he’s the one, but it’s when they’ve gone away for a long time that you really know what they were to you. We haven’t spoken in what feels like a year now, maybe it’s been longer, maybe it was more recently, but it seemed to be only the shell of a conversation. It’s like she just isn’t there anymore. The last time we really talked, we had a fight. At least, I think it was a fight. It was over before I was really able to make sense out of it.
She’d already had another relationship. It had only been four months, but somehow this relationship meant more to her than ours did, after all we’d only been together for a year, she said. This new guy though, it was going to take her a very long time to get over him. I wonder if she knew how hurtful and frankly mean it was of her to put it all that way. Somehow, even though she insisted she didn’t care anymore in the slightest, she still wanted an explanation as for why I broke up with her. And thinking she was trying to get me to apologize again, I just said, “you know, our whole relationship you always wanted me to apologize for everything. You have never apologized to me for anything. Ever” She didn’t even respond. That was simply it. I never really heard from her again. I tried writing her a few times, and she responded with the minimum amount of information possible.
And I keep playing through everything in my head, again and again, and wondering. Is this something that runs in the family? Is it just that it takes me longer to get over these things than the average person? Or is there a lingering purpose to it all?
So, I think it’s time I came out and told this woman how I feel, assuming I can even find her now. I just want to find the right words.
I hate myself for leaving you. You deserved better, and if I could take it all back, I would. I loved you from the moment we first spoke to each other, and I never stopped. Even now I still do. What I meant when I said I never loved you was more an emotional response to my own frustration in not feeling the strong feelings I once had for that cruel, callous ex. What I didn’t realize was that I had new feelings for you, deeper feelings that had already long taken root, growing slowly but surely. Like trees, these feelings eventually grow taller and stronger than those of the weeds that occupied the field before – my emotional center – my life. Now, even though you’re far away, and for all I know, deeply and madly in love with someone new, I still want you to be part of my life. There are so many things I still want to say to you. I still want to talk to you, even if only from time to time. I still want to know you, and want it or not, I still, and will always, love you. Though I may have to accept that I am no longer important to you, what I need you to know above all else is that you are still important to me.