There are currently piles of trash bags in our kitchen. I'm fuzzy on what's in them; my wife cleaned out the closet muttering about how she'd never thrown out a towel in her life. I added only one bag to the pile; it contains old zip disks and the zip disk player. Younger people may not know what a zip disk is. I thought about checking them to find out what was on them, but couldn't face it.
Why am I unearthing zip disks? Why is my wife throwing out the towels? Well, after 15 years in our current apartment, we're moving across town. We thought we had good reasons. We want a two-flat so we can be in the same house as my wife's mom, and my son has his heart set on this one arts high school that's out of commuting distance from where we live now. We found a nice place in a decent neighborhood at a decent price.
And now we're in hell. I've been packing books in boxes to get rid of for weeks now. Janet Evanovich mysteries, towering piles of manga, Dan Clowes comics, history textbooks from college, adventure stories from third grade, my son's complete collection of Elephant and Piggie picture books; all tossed into boxes, lugged out to the car and lugged further into the used book store, where the employees now all know me by name and anticipate my coming with a weary dread. I've taken out about 40 boxes full of assorted tomes now, and if you squint around our apartment you can sort of see it. Every shelf is still full, pretty much, but they're not double stacked, and there aren't piles of books sitting in the middle of the floor.
The main change isn't the level of clutter, but in the air of ominous dread. Overnight the apartment has taken on a kind of looming gothic presence, heavy with the weight of past atrocities. Each discarded dog toy, each knick-knack on each shelf, each book, radiates malevolence. "You’ll have to put me in a box, and carry me to a truck, and unload me in the near future," they whisper, their dry voices skittering like foul rats through my distracted brain. "Maybe we should just throw out all this wrapping paper?" I ask my wife. "We're going to have air conditioning; why don't we get rid of all the fans? Or what about the cat that keeps peeing on your clothes? Can we leave him?" "We need wrapping paper and fans," she says. "And the cat has soft ears and a pleasing purr. What's wrong with you?" And I fall to my knees, pulling at my hair. "It's the voices! The voices!"
Fifteen years ago, when we moved from our old, much smaller apartment to this one, we swore we'd never move again. In theory, this move is going better than the last one; my wife hasn't had giant screaming matches with our real estate agent this time, which is a big step in the right direction. Of course, we haven't started to show our apartment yet. Bag after bag of random crap and cherished memories go out the door, but still the place is too much of a mess to show. And that's even mentioning our storage locker in the basement. To which we've lost the key.
Our realtor tried to tell us that moving was an adventure, a chance to unburden yourself and start anew. There's nothing to like about moving. I don't want to think about dismantling the giant cage we've never used because our enormous greyhound is the one greyhound in the world that doesn't like to sleep in a cage. I don't want to figure out which books I want to keep and which science fiction series from my adolescence I'm finally willing to get rid of. I just want to settle slowly into my home beneath the layers of accumulated correspondence and compact discs, like a skeleton settling down beneath the silt, and never move again.