I have twenty-four hours to vacate my apartment and I’m beginning to seriously consider the pros and cons of setting every piece of clothing I own on fire.
I’m at the moving stage I like to call Piles, where mounds have formed in various corners of the mostly empty living room. So far “Is This Even Mine?” is the largest, followed by “What Was I Thinking” and “I’ll Get A New One Later.” As I toss and stack and sort, the Immolation List grows increasingly detailed.
Pro: By and large my clothes all fall into the “cover only enough skin to keep me from getting arrested so that I can stand to go outside on a 110 degree day” category. It is unlikely that they’ll do me much good in Oregon so what’s the point of packing them in the first place.
Con: Oregon is not a part of the Arctic Circle. There are four distinct seasons of which winter is only one. With the proper layering strategy most of my clothes will be appropriate three out of four seasons.
Pro: If I don’t have to pack the rest of my clothes, I’ll have more room for the rest of my books.
Con: Books are neither as light nor as squishy as clothes are. I have already shoved clothing between, inside and around my cookware and wine glasses. More will fit inside the bins and suitcases that are already packed. My books are not versatile like that. They can only be packed in square or rectangular spaces, and they’re no good as packing material for more fragile things.
Pro: My books are touchstones. Each book that I own has a connection to a specific portion of my life. The hardcover copy of “A Christmas Carol” that my grandfather gave to my parents the year I was born. “Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher,” which I got at a book fair in elementary school and have never been without since. The paperback of “Kushiel’s Dart” marks the beginning of a rich and rewarding friendship. The Harry Potter hardbacks I waited for at midnight release parties, once with my friends, once with my sister, and the final time alone in the city that I’m am now, eight years later, getting ready to leave. My clothes don’t have those memories.
Con: Most of those books, the ones that have really strong memories and I can’t bear to be without, are already in Oregon. I’m leaving LA for several reasons and that’s one of them. My most precious, prized and beloved books are already up north. I have to move because I have to go get them. The books that I’m considering now still have memories but they aren’t really super strong. I just don’t want to be without them.
Pro: Since all my bookcases have gone to prescreened and loving homes, taking books instead of clothes will mean getting to buy more bookcases!
Con: This is going to happen whether I pack my clothes or not. Bookshelves are a foregone conclusion.
Pro: I am very good at Tetris. Without the clothes I might be able to get all the rest of my stuff into my car.
Con: There is not enough space in my car to accomplish this. I deliberately bought a car that could double as a Micro Machine for parking purposes. I am now wasting time actively regretting a decision I made seven years ago.
Pro: Ash would be much easier to pack.
Con: I will, eventually, need clothes of some sort. I will also need underwear. And socks. And wine glasses. I will need my tool kit and my screw gun (and my father will never speak to me again if I leave those two things behind). Though it pains me to admit it, I do not NEED these books in the same way.
Pro: It is much less painful to part with my clothes. The kind of connection that I have with my books is weird to a lot of people. I get that. As addictions go mine is both benign and legal, but I know most people of my acquaintance laugh when they think about it. But no matter who finds it amusing or baffling or charming, that connection is very real to me. Leaving my clothes would be liberating. Leaving my books is wrenching.
Con: Setting my clothes on fire isn’t going to help much.
My plan is obviously impractical. It is a dream. Science and common sense tell me that I am not going to be able to fit all my books into my car. I will have to leave some of them behind.
If I were less stressed out and annoyed I would probably be able to find some humor in the situation; right now I’m hot and dusty and hoping against hope that the dozen paper bags lying limply in a corner will be enough because all the boxes are full. I’ll take these books to the public library where they will raise money for an excellent cause and find another home in the process. It’s a good thing.
Still. There’s a pang behind my heart at the thought of leaving some of my books behind in this place I’ve lived and loved and hated and been sober and been drunk and traveled away from and come back to and grown up in. Giving away my books is hard to do, but so is moving away. Nothing about this process has been easy. It’s been terrifying and hopeful and necessary but it hasn’t been easy. I can’t stay, but I can send little bits of my heart out into this city before I go.
Leaving my books means leaving a piece of myself.
That, finally, feels right.