Papers, papers, papers. Help, I’m drowning in a sea of papers! I really must do something about it!
Following advice from a critical but well-meaning friend, I make up a dozen archive boxes and number them with a large chisel-nibbed marker pen. OK, I can now identify a box at twenty paces.
I start to go around my apartment, dumping papers and associated junk unceremoniously into the boxes. Box one, a stack of writing magazines that have been cluttering my desk for months. Why don’t I read them? Or write, for that matter? Oh, I don’t have time, of course. Well I guess I could quit watching endless re-runs of Seinfeld, but, well, I wouldn’t want to break the habit of a lifetime. Anyway, out of sight, out of mind!
Into box two goes the rubbish off my kitchen table, ‘to do’ lists, piles of receipts – why don’t I just throw them? Oh, I know, I want to get the points put on my loyalty card. Except that I don’t have one. So, they’re sitting there waiting for me to go back to the supermarket, queue at the customer service desk, ask for an application form, send it off, then phone to have the points retrospectively added. All for a few measly bucks. Into the box! I can throw them out when the allowed time has expired, barring the miracle of me actually getting one of their goddamned cards. In the meantime, I don’t have to feel guilty.
Box three is stuff off the top of my filing cabinet, piles of unopened letters and bank statements. Why don’t I request paperless statements? Well, do you know anyone who’s had a computer not blow a resistor or whatever? Exactly! Then, how do you access your statements? You’re stuffed. Like a piglet in a chestnut factory.
The phone rings. “Hello? … yes, I’m doing it right now, Shelina! Whaddya mean, voice recorder, card index file! … look, I’m going to the ballet with my mother tonight, I haven’t got time for anything like that … look sorry, I gotta go, hun, speak to you later!”
I open a draw and the contents go into box number four. Letters from Reuben. I’m not brave enough to put them in the shredder. But I didn’t see a future for us. Call me weird but I didn’t like the things he asked me to do. I didn’t like the taste or the smell. Of those blue cheese and sauerkraut pretzels he was always eating, I mean.
Then there’s something else in that draw that goes into box number four too. Something I won’t mention here but something that makes me go “oooooOOOOOHHHH!!” But, well, I’m a spiritual girl now and I don’t like the idea of angels and spirit guides and what have you, seeing me do ‘that.’ I can live without it. Well, for a week or two. Maybe. We’ll see.
My computer beeps. A friend from over the pond, a crummy little country, but, hey, they’ve got stuff we haven’t. Congratulating themselves over their queen and beef heaters and the Beatles. And, they invented football too, though a weird kind where you can’t pick the ball up! I’ll reply tomorrow. Like I say, I’ve gotta meet mom soon and those tickets weren’t cheap!
Into box number six I throw stuff from my dressing table and bedside cabinet, I’ve got more makeup than Emmett Kelly, for Chrissakes!
Finally, I gaze in awe at two neat stacks of six boxes, discretely tucked away in a corner. Maybe I could make up another three or four boxes? I look out of the window, down onto apartments below and feel a glow of pride. I’ll bet theirs are all cluttered, not like mine!
The phone goes again. “Hi Mom, yes, I’m just about to have a quick shower and get ready … yeah, I’m excited, really looking forward to it … yeah, of course I’ve got the ticket! … it’s right here … well, it was right here … hold on.”
My eyes flick from the empty surfaces to the pile of boxes and I feel a sick feeling in my stomach. “You say you’re picking me up in thirty minutes, Mom?”
Featured in the book, Letters from Reuben and Other Stories: 40 Little Tales of Mirth
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