The Study of a Disassembled Room

20 Aug

Part of the Monday Musings collection

Trying to pack nineteen years of living in one city into a few boxes and duffel bags is more difficult than I had imagined.

I started cleaning out my bedroom a few days ago in preparation for moving to Charlottesville, where I’ll begin as a first year at the University of Virginia. Neatness has never been a strength of mine, and my drawers and closet brimmed with a jumble of ill-fitting clothes, books I hadn’t read in years, and mementos whose significance I couldn’t remember anymore. Adele’s honey-smooth voice poured out of my iPod speakers, filling the corners of my room with the lyrics of “Hometown Glory.” On the piles that topped my desk, I discovered a shirt whose hem I had half-altered a year ago, some stale-smelling Victoria’s Secret perfume (and to think, I used to scorn people who bought the stuff; apparently I own a bottle), and programmes from every theater production I had appeared in during high school. Wedged in my closet were a wealth of objects: old jewelry, half a pair of flip-flops. A clumsy painting of a rabbit from middle school. A gauzy purple shirt I had always admired but never worn. A Greek urn in miniature, its sides adorned with thickly-outlined men whose chins jutted like spears. A gift card to Barnes & Noble that I had never redeemed. In my nightstand drawer, I came upon heaps of yarn and dusty string from my knitting obsession from fourth grade. Next to it was a pile of shells, reminding me of my old obsession with conchology (when I was eight, I asked for nothing but mollusc shells for Christmas).Under my bed I found a binder full of old geography and Spanish tests from sixth grade. A picture on the front reminded me of the time when I refused to cut my hair and parted it exactly down the center so that blonde tendrils swept in front of my face, obscuring it.

I’ve never found it easy to distinguish between what I should keep – what truly holds significance – and what I should throw out. This week hasn’t made it any easier.

I used to be intensely proud of my book collection. Packed into a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf that dominates my room are over three hundred books, ranging from Interview with a Vampire to Lolita to a few Star Wars tie-in novels. Yesterday, I sat down in front of the shelf with a few boxes in hand. I ruthlessly tossed any book I hadn’t read in two years into the bags, then carted them up to my dusty, dreamy attic. Then I ripped posters of Alexander McQueen and Iron & Wine from the walls. I bundled up bags of clothing I had bought but never worn.

I have dissected and neatly boxed up my Richmond years, which are all I’ve ever known. What I couldn’t bear to part with will either accompany me to college or has been tossed into the trash can. Waiting on the floor to be packed into the van on Friday are new sheets, cleaning supplies, a vacuum cleaner, a surge protector. On Saturday, I will cart them up to a 12′ by 11′ room in a city that is not Richmond. I will parse the walls from the floors from the standard-issue dorm furniture, learning the anatomy of this new place. I will construct photo montages and fresh arrangements of the books I’ve brought with me.

I will enjoy college. I’m not sad to live in Charlottesville. But nineteen years in one city are a lot to let go of.

* * *

And now for something completely different – I want to make a reeeaaaaal quick announcement about interviews with a few of my insanely talented writing acquaintances.  Rich Larson, who writes all sorts of snazzy speculative fiction, has been interviewed here at Underwords.  Peter LaBerge, the seventeen-year-old mastermind behind the glorious Adroit Journal, was similarly interviewed here on Figment.  They’re both wonderful writers, so take a gander at their words of wisdom!

And a wonderful Monday to the lot of you.  Thanks for stopping by!

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2 Responses to “The Study of a Disassembled Room”

  1. Jan Simson August 21, 2012 at 10:46 am #

    I’m also cleaning up my place and throwing out things that I don’t need. Objects or places that hold a certain amount of sentimental value are always hard to let go of. Cheers.

    • elizabethballou August 24, 2012 at 12:21 am #

      isn’t it strange how inanimate objects can have such a pull over you?

      anyway, thanks (as usual) for stopping by!

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