My mind is a blur of letters upon words upon phrases trying ever so desperately to spill from the very pages of my brain, only to slip out in a jumbled up mess of colors and nonsense. My heart thumps furiously as my brain attempts to pump out all of the gunk and grime that cakes and clogs even my simplest of thoughts. The empty paper in front of me begins to bleed as I release a wave of emotion from my lips, no longer caring where it lands. The once white page now stained and red shows nothing but confusion and chaos. How could anyone read this? How could anyone understand? My mind, now emptied, prompts me with an idea. I reach for the brush, and soon the smooth, white lines wipe away any trace of color. How fresh and clean the page now looks, but soon, the process will begin once more. I worry there won’t be enough white paint.
The rain brings flowers
And my heart begins to bloom
A pale shade of pink.
When the rain begins to fall, and the skies begin to darken, I think about my own mind. Depression threatens to intrude upon my happiness like the looming clouds threaten to choke out the light of the sun. The rain falls from the sky like tear drops down my cheeks as the last remaining rays of light slowly disappear. But then, something magical happens. The rain falls and falls, bringing with it sadness, but something else as well. There’s hope. Hope that the day will become brighter again. Hope that tomorrow will be better. Hope that this rain will wash away all of the cobwebs from your soul and give you a new sense of life, feeling, and belonging. And as you look outside your window, you realize that it is all true. The rain washes away all of the dust, pollen, and grime that cakes the world outside. But when the rain stops falling, and the clouds go away, don’t think about the mud that’s left behind. Rather, look upwards towards the sky as the sun begins to shine once more. A rainbow will appear even after the worst storm as a reminder that things will get better. They always get better. And as the flowers begin to soak in all the nutrients from their freshly watered soil, remember that growing is a process. Rain makes the flowers grow stronger, just like tears make the heart grow fonder.
There was an eerie silence in the abbey that day. The morning prayers had been said, and the nuns had quietly floated their way back into the solitary confinement of their tiny rooms. Lilly Madison, tired of a morning spent all alone, slowly and carefully turned the smooth silver knob of her dark wooden door and slipped into the empty hallway. The door let out a silent whisper of protest as it shut behind her. Glancing in both directions, Lilly glided gracefully down the stairs. The smooth beads of her silver rosary swayed back and forth as she pushed past the heavy wooden doors to the chapel and made her way down the aisle towards the heavily adorned altar. She glanced briefly up at the image of Christ before kneeling at the foot of the cross.
This was unnatural for a nun of her status. As a new member of the convent, she knew that she was not supposed to be wandering the halls alone, nor was she allowed to enter the chapel without a guardian; however, none of this stopped her from slipping her rosary from around her neck and letting the cool beads grace the soft tips of her fingers. With each bead her fingers passed, she prayed a small prayer: one for guidance, one for forgiveness, one for peace and understanding. She prayed for strength, and that God would provide her with the means to accomplish her task.
During the many days, weeks, and months that she had spent alone in her room praying and meditating over the scriptures, she had come to an enlightenment like no other. Lilly truly felt as though God had spoken to her directly, but she kept it quiet for fear of condemnation from the other nuns. She was well respected by everyone, a promising new nun surrounded by a cloud of potential. The abbess had become quite fond of her, and had taken her on as somewhat of an apprentice, mentoring her in the ways of the abbey and helping her to reach a new level in her relationship with Christ. Every day, Lilly fell to her knees in sovereign adoration and prayed that God would make her more like the abbess. After months of waiting for an answer, she finally felt as though she had discovered the very will of God.
The sturdy sound of the chapel bells pounded her out of her thoughts and pulled her to her feet. The abbess would be making her way to the garden for afternoon prayers. Her time to act was now. Rosary in hand, she eased her way out of the chapel. A brilliant smile spread its way across her rosy cheeks. The beads now felt warm in her hand, and she clutched them tightly to her chest as she cascaded down the hallway, through the front door, and across the lawn to the prayer garden.
The gate let out a scream of resistance, startling the abbess from her afternoon prayers.
“Lilly? What are you–”
There was hardly enough time to react before Lilly wrapped the silver string of beads tightly around the neck of the abbess. Pulling her to the ground with all of her weight, she held fast to the rosary, making sure to cut off all air as the abbess struggled for a breath. No screams could be heard as her face slowly changed from a rosy pink to a deep shade of blue. Lilly stroked the hair of her suffocating mentor and began to pray.
“Lord, guide me in my mission to serve you. Cover me with your grace and protection. Allow me to complete the task that you have so clearly made known to me. Give me the peace and understanding to know that your will must be done. Forgive me of my transgressions, and help me to forgive those who have done me wrong. Restoreth my soul, and lead me down the path to righteousness. Guide me as you have guided the mother abbess, and allow me to continue on with her vision for the future of the church. Bless her in death as you have in life, and lead her safely to the pearly gates of heaven. In Christ’s holy name I pray, Amen.”
7 AM: the alarm blared “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” as Samantha sleepily rubbed her eyes. She let out a lazy yawn and rolled over to shut it off. Sleep threatened to pull her back under, but she forced herself to sit up, carefully placing her perfectly manicured feet onto the plush white rug that adorned her bedroom floor. She paused for a moment, letting the sweet softness greet her toes, before begrudgingly pushing herself to her feet. She glanced at the clock. 7:10 AM. Only one hour and fifty minutes before she had to be at her interview.
Quickly slipping on her favorite pair of slippers and silky black robe, Samantha headed to the kitchen to whip up some breakfast. The room was spinning, but she tried desperately to push away her frayed nerves. As she listened to the sweet sizzle of the bacon cooking in the pan, Samantha could hold back her fear no longer. Today’s interview was the most important interview of her entire career. Working as an editor for her small town’s local newspaper, she had always dreamed of moving to New York City and becoming a writer for one of her favorite magazine company’s The New Yorker. Never in her life, however, had she believed that she’d actually have the chance to pursue this dream. At least, never until three months ago.
After seeing an ad online for a possible job opening at The New Yorker, Samantha had immediately sent in her resume, desperately hoping for a miracle. An entire month had gone by without any word, causing her to almost lose all hope, until that fateful day when she received a phone call from the magazine’s chief editor, Mr. Marks, congratulating her on being one out of three possible candidates for the job. Samantha’s excited shrieks were enough to let everyone in town know of her good fortune. Not wanting to wait any longer, she decided to use this interview as her excuse to leave her small town of Abingdon, Virginia and moved all of her belongings to a small studio apartment located in the heart of the Big Apple. Life in the big city was hard, but Samantha wholeheartedly believed that it was for the best.
As she finished up her breakfast, Samantha glanced at the clock once more. It was almost 7:30, and she knew that she would have to hurry if she was going to be there in time. She hastily threw her dishes in the sink, and raced to the bathroom. Stopping in front of the mirror, she carefully looked herself over. Her long hair rested messily on her pale shoulders, and she self-consciously brushed it into her face to hide her masculine features. She had always resented the way she looked. Her chin was sharp, her eyes looked crooked, her nose was too big, and her lips were too small. She envied the women who had been born with beauty, their flawless smiles and perfect skin mocking her at every corner. Why couldn’t she look like all the other women her age? Why had she been born….like this?
Looking away from the mirror, Samantha pushed away the negative thoughts and stepped into the shower. Letting the warm water trickle down her back, she began to scrub away all her worries. She let the sweet smell of Dove shampoo fill her nostrils as she ran her fingers through her smooth hair. She was not going to let her insecurities ruin her excitement over this day. Samantha had worked hard to get this interview, and now all she wanted to focus on was making a good first impression. Switching off the faucet, she wrapped herself up in a towel and headed to her closet. She had laid out an outfit the night before, but was now unsure of her decision and began to flip through the multitude of dresses hanging in her color-coded wardrobe. She tried on dress after dress, before finally deciding on the same one she had laid out, slipping in over her still-damp hair. She posed in front of her full length mirror, gazing happily at the way the dress made her look. The soft, black fabric flowed freely from her waist, hiding her thin thighs and unshapely hips, and the lacy accents at the top made her lack of breasts much less noticeable. She smiled, proud of the way she looked for the first time in a long time, before making her way back to the bathroom to finish getting ready.
The next step in her beautifying routine was makeup. She had spent countless hours as a teenager watching YouTube videos in order to learn how to create the perfect face, and had finally perfected the art of contouring and winged eyeliner. Looking in the mirror, she began to lather her face in foundation, creating triangles and lines in all the right places before finally blending it all together with her brush. Grabbing her eyeliner, she guided the tip of the pencil over the curve her eye, letting it end in a nice, sharp point. She repeated the process on her other eye before examining her progress in the mirror. Feeling satisfied with the result, she quickly applied her mascara and eye shadow, and then finished off her masterpiece with a light pink lip gloss. Her hair, now mostly dry, flowed softly around her shoulders. Samantha ran her fingers through it to brush out the tangles, and then carefully tied it up into a neat bun at the base of her neck. Stepping back, Samantha looked at herself proudly in the mirror. This was as close to a beautiful women as she was ever going to look, but she was okay with that. For once, she actually felt good about herself.
The clock in the kitchen read 8:15 as Samantha quickly gathered up her purse and resume. Confidence bubbled up inside of her, causing a dazzling smile to spread across her freshly painted face. She stepped out the door of her apartment building at 8:20 and let the morning breeze gently tug at the skirts of her dress. Stepping to the edge of the street, she leaned out to hail a taxi. However, with each gesture she made, more taxis flew past her, almost sending her resume flying from her hands. She tried again, but was ignored once more. Giving up, she sadly walked down the street. Her watch read 8:30. There was no way should could make it there by 9 if she had to walk the whole way. In her brief moment of despair, a bright yellow taxi pulled up to the curve, letting out a sharply dressed man in an expensive looking suit. Thinking fast, she rushed to the taxi, grabbing the door before he could shut it.
“I’m sorry,” she said apologetically, “but I really need to get to an interview.” At first, the man smiled at her, but after getting a closer look, his face quickly turned red, and he hastily rushed away muttering something she could not understand under his breath. Samantha looked down at her dress, wondering if it had blown up in the wind, but everything was perfectly in place. Confused by the man’s reaction, she slipped her way into the backseat of the taxi. “I’m heading to The New Yorker for an interview,” she said to the driver as she shut the door. Without saying a word, he pulled away from the curb and out into the line of traffic. They rode in silence. Samantha, who had been staring out the window, felt a chill run down her spine. She uneasily glanced up at the rearview mirror. For a brief second, her eyes met those of the driver. His icy, judgmental stare made her flinch as his eyes quickly focused back on the road.
What is up with everyone today? She wondered as she self-consciously tugged at the lace on her dress. She began to worry that maybe her dress was not appropriate for an interview, or that maybe there was lipstick on her teeth. Pulling out a small mirror from her purse, she wearily gazed at her reflection, but she couldn’t see what everyone was staring at. It’s just all in my head, she decided, and began to focus on her interview. This was her one chance to finally fulfil her lifelong dream. Her nerves crept back into the corners of her mind, but she pushed them away as the taxi finally came to a stop in front of her destination. As she handed the money to the driver, she noticed that he was avoiding her eyes, but she brushed it off. His rudeness was not going to ruin her self-confidence.
Feeling sassy and beautiful, Samantha strode confidently into the building, walking straight up the skinny blond receptionist at the front desk. Her shiny silver name plate read Mrs. Angela Peters. “I’m here for an interview with Mr. Marks,” she said with a smile. The receptionist slowly lifted her eyes from her magazine before letting them stop on Samantha’s face. Her eyes widened, and she opened her mouth as if to say something before slowly shutting it again. Samantha could feel the confidence oozing out of her as the lady gave her another surprised look.
“Umm…your name?” she asked hesitantly.
“Do you mean Sam?”
Angela scrolled through a list of names on her computer, before finally glancing back up at Samantha. “He’ll be with you shortly,” she said hesitantly before pointing her to a seat in the lobby. Samantha made her way to the sofa and took at seat. She smoothed her dress down over her knees and stared back at the receptionist. Angela avoided her eyes and continued to stare down at her copy of the latest issue of The New Yorker. Samantha let her eyes fall back to the floor. What was going on? Why was everyone giving her such strange looks? She hardly had any time to consider the possibilities before a handsome younger man stepped out of a nearby office. He glanced around the lobby before calling out her name.
“Sam Hathaway?” he said, slowly letting his head tilt to the side as he looked her over. His eyes widened slightly, and his lips were pressed into a stern line on his handsomely sculpted face.
“It’s Samantha,” she corrected as she stood up. She reached out her hand, but he looked away, ignoring her small gesture, and waved her into his office. Samantha let her hand quickly sink back to her side as the last of her confidence began to dissipate. Taking a seat, she carefully slid her resume across the desk, and the interview began.
“Ms.….Hathaway,” he started. “Why do you want to work for this company?”
“Well, it has always been my dream to work for you, sir,” she began with a small smile. “I’ve been reading The New Yorker for as long as I can remember, and I know that I have the skills necessary to–”
“After reviewing your resume again, I’m not so sure if you’re the right fit for this company,” he interrupted suddenly. Shocked, Samantha stared blankly into his eyes.
“B-but sir, you haven’t even given me a chance! If you’ll just let me prove–”
“I’m sorry, but I think we have already decided on who to give the job to.” As he spoke, he stood and made his way to the door. “However, thank you for your application, and I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors.” He made a gesture towards the door as Samantha continued to stare in shock at his face. Slowly pushing herself to her feet, she made her way out the door. Her hands were shaking.
“If I could just have one more chance—” she began, but was greeted with a door to the face. Tears threatened to fall from the corners of her eyes as she gathered her composure and pushed her way past the front desk. Angela gave her a brief glance before quickly looking away.
Out on the street, Samantha made her way to the small coffee shop that was nestled next to the towering office building. The ding of the bell greeted her as she stepped inside. Climbing into the seat at the counter, she asked the waiter for a tall black coffee. Her eyes never met his as she stared blankly at the ugly yellow countertop. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed a small child, probably no older than six, curiously looking in her direction. Tired of all the uncomfortable stares she had been receiving all day, she angrily looked back at him. His eyes grew wide, and his little hand reached to tug at his mother’s sleeve.
“Mommy, mommy!” he whispered loudly. “Why is that man wearing a dress?”
Sam watched as all of the color drained from the woman’s face. She quietly scolded her son, before grabbing his hand and pulling him out the door of the shop, muttering her silent apologies as she passed by.
Picking up his coffee, Sam made his way back to his small studio apartment. As he walked in the door, he stepped out of his sleek, black heels and made his way to the mirror. He stared blankly at his reflection. No amount of makeup could hide the masculine features of his face. No dress could hide the bulkiness of his broad shoulders. No amount of hair could make him look like the woman he so desperately felt that he was.
Sam angrily pulled the dress over his head and threw it to the floor. As he sank to his knees, the softness of his fluffy white rug greeted his pale skin. The tears he had been holding back for so long finally began to fall.
One by one, Madeline slowly slipped her pale legs into the smooth cocoon of her tight black stockings. She carefully eased them up over her thick thighs and brought them to rest at her at the base of her hips. Next, she carefully laid out three different dresses: a sliming black one with dazzling sparkles that traced the neckline, a short and sassy red one that clung to her hips and accentuated her curves, and a skimpy white one that revealed just a little too much skin for her usual tastes. Madeline let her delicate fingers trace the silky fabric of each one, before picking up the black one and holding it to her body. She stood facing the mirror as the dress hung in front of her. She laid it back down again. Madeline once again repeated the process, this time with the red dress, but again, she laid it back on the bed.
After pausing for just a moment, she very slowly picked up the white dress and slipped it over her head. She pulled, tugged, and wiggled until the skin-tight dress clung to her waist. Madeline analyzed her appearance in the mirror. The sheer see-through cutouts on each side displayed her curves in a revealing manner, and the low-cut top barely covered her fake breasts. She self-consciously tugged at the bottom. This would have to do.
Madeline reached for her tube of bright red lipstick. She painted her face just like her mother had taught her when she was younger. Thick black eyeliner lined her dark brown eyes, and her bright pink eyeshadow sparkled in the light. Her lips were as red as a freshly picked apple, and she curled them up into a small smile. Madeline could remember a simpler time when her mother would sit on the floor in front of her, crisscross-applesauce, and carefully apply each layer of makeup. She always started with the lips. The lips are the centerpiece of the face, she would say with a smile as she spread the brightly colored lip gloss onto Madeline’s tiny lips. Beautiful! She would exclaim when she had finished, sending little Madeline running to the mirror to see.
Her father, on the other hand, had never agreed. Are you trying to make our daughter look like a skank?! He would yell as he raised his hand towards her mother. He would then proceed to yank Madeline up by her hair and drag her to the bathroom, watching menacingly as she angrily scrubbed the makeup off of her tear-stained face.
Madeline quickly blinked away her tears, careful not to smudge her makeup, and hastily slipped into her tall red heels. Taking one last glance at her reflection, she grabbed her coat and rushed out the door of her LA apartment. She slipped through the darkened streets, made her way into the deepest alleys, and slowly pushed her way to the curb. There she would wait.
It wasn’t long before a sleek, silver Porsche pulled up beside her. The window tent was definitely past regulation, and it was clear that this man had money.
“Depends on what you’re looking for.”
“I want it all.”
Madeline thought for a moment before making her decision. She looked him over. He seemed to be in his forties, handsome, in good shape, and clearly privileged. His expensive suite fit him perfectly. A Rolex adorned his arm and on his left hand, he sported a shiny golden ring. “$2,000” she said bravely. She knew it was a stretch, but she would not back down.
“Deal,” he said without hesitation, and soon they were pulling into the parking lot of a dingy, cheap motel. As she walked into the dimly lite room, she could hear the screams of her father. What the hell do you think you’re doing?! No daughter of mine is ever going to be a prostitute! She felt the sticky warmth of the man’s hands as he began to viciously tug at her zipper. His hot breath wreaked of alcohol. Her body screamed in protest, but she couldn’t think of any other solution. No one wanted her. No one had ever wanted her. This was all she had.
As she slipped into her usual unfeeling state of mind, Madeline was absolutely sure that her father would never have wanted her to feel so alone.
Tate looked at his watch. Any minute now his plane would be landing, and he would be back in his home town for the first time in ten years. A loud dinging filled his ears as the flight attendant announced their arrival in Cincinnati. He snapped his seatbelt into place and braced himself for the bumpy landing. As he stepped off the plane and into the terminal, he almost immediately heard the loud squeals of his mother as she came barreling towards him.
“My baby!” she cried, tears streaming from her bright blue eyes. Tate wiggled uncomfortably, trying his best to squeeze his way out of her tight grasp. She stepped back, wiped her eyes, and smiled a sad smile. “I’ve missed you so much,” she said in almost a whisper.
“I’ve missed you too, mom.”
Tate lugged his single suitcase behind him as his mom led him through the maze of people and back to her tiny bright green mini cooper. “Don’t you just love it?” She held out her arms towards the car as though she were Vanna White showing off her prize. The bold green color made him feel queasy, but he nodded his head and climbed inside.
As they rolled out of the airport parking lot, Tate’s mother chattered happily about all the things she had been up to since the last time they had talked. He only half listened as he peered out the window. The town that he had grown up in flew past him like scenes from an old movie. Each one brought back memories he had hoped to forget.
On the corner of the street at the shell station sat thirteen-year-old Tate, his hands clinched tightly. He shivered as a drop of sweat slithered down his spine. He looked as though he were waiting for someone and glanced suspiciously in every direction. Before he even had the chance to react, his friend Craig came bounding out of the store full speed. “Run!” he screamed, and the two of them took off towards the alleyways. Craig tossed him the stolen liquor and soon they were safely tucked away behind a dumpster. Tate took a sip and let himself slowly slip into bliss.
“So are you excited for your reunion?” His mother’s question pulled him out of his thoughts and brought him back to reality. Reunion? He had almost completely forgotten about that, but it was the only reason he had come back. Tomorrow was the day of his ten year high school reunion, the one he hadn’t even wanted to attend. However, his therapist had suggested that he go. “It will be good for you to face your past,” she had said. Tate wasn’t sure if he agreed with her, but decided to give it a try. As they pulled into the driveway of his childhood home, he was hit hard with a painful flashback.
There he was, only fifteen, holding a brown paper bag in between his shaking hands. It was a quarter past midnight, and he knew that he was way past his curfew. He took a deep drink from the bottle and tossed the bag out behind the bushes. As he stumbled into the house, the lights flicked on and his angry father sat menacingly on the couch. “Are you drunk?!” he barked as Tate fumbled into the room. Tate laughed and tripped over the rug.
“Earth to Tate!” His eyes blinked as his mother waved her hands in front of his face. “Come on inside! I’m making dinner.”
Up in his room, Tate glanced around at all of his old things. It was just as he had left it. A model airplane that he and his dad had started working on still laid half unfinished on his old desk. A pair of dusty sneakers were thrown lazily into the corner, and his pillows were tousled as though he had slept there the night before rather than ten years ago. “I wonder…” he said to no one in particular as he leaned down to feel underneath his bed. Just as he had suspected, his fingertips gently grazed the cool metal of an empty flask. As he pulled it out, he was hit with another memory.
Screaming. That’s all he heard as he angrily threw his things into his bag. He was eighteen. He was an adult. He wasn’t going to let them tell him what to do anymore. Tate took a swig from his flask as his mother continued to bang her fists into his locked bedroom door, demanding that he open it. He continued to pack his back, ignoring her furious cries. Suddenly, the door flew open, and his dad came barreling in. “Where the hell do you think you’re going?” Tate could smell the alcohol on his breath. He laughed. “As far away from you as I can,” he said smoothly as he stared deep into his father’s eyes. His father stumbled towards him, fists flying, but Tate dodged his swings and quickly ran out the door. “I don’t need him. I don’t need any of them!” he thought to himself, and soon he was flying down the highway.
The flask made a loud clang as it hit the hardwood floor. Tate blinked. He was back in his room. Back in his town. It was as though nothing had even changed. No. Something had changed. Someone was missing. Another flashback came.
The call had come late at night while his cellphone sat on the counter of the bar. It was a number he recognized. His mother’s. Tate ignored it and called to the bar attendant for another drink. His phone continued to buzz noisily. He continued to ignore it. The dinging sound let him know that he had a new voicemail. Should he even listen to it? He hesitated for a moment, but finally decided to press play. “Tate…” his mother said softly. “It’s your father. He’s dead.” Tate dropped the phone. He could hear it clang against the hard floor as he the threw his bottle of whiskey across the counter. It smashed against the wall sending tiny shards of glistening glass trickling around the room. The hot tears burned as they fell.
Liver disease. That’s what had killed him. His excessive drinking has finally caught up to him, sending him to the grave at only fifty years old. He was too young to die. Tate picked up the empty flask and threw it at the wall. After his father had died, he had stopped drinking altogether. It had been hard, but he knew he wasn’t ready to face his father’s same fate. It hadn’t been easy. How many times had the bottle called out to him, tempting him with just one tiny sip? He closed his eyes. The pain cut him deep. His father had tried to stop him. Tried to make him better. But his own abusive use of alcohol had lead Tate spiraling down the same path towards destruction.
The sound of his mother downstairs in the kitchen, the haunting chime of the clock in the hall, the creaking of the wooden floor beneath his feet. It was almost too much to bare. The memories. The heartache. The pain. He shouldn’t have come back. He shouldn’t be here. Tate flung open the door of his closet and desperately threw out all of his things. “Where the hell is it?!” he snarled between clenched teeth before feeling his hand touch the smooth surface of a well-hidden bottle. He grasped the bottle between his shaking hands and raised it towards the ceiling. He knew what he should do. He knew that he needed to smash it, to rid himself of this poison for good. But something inside of that bottle called out to him once more. His pain, too great to bare, threatened to break him, but the bottle, he knew what it could do. He knew it could make him forget all of this.
His sudden burst of energy now gone, Tate sank to the floor on his knees, cracked open the bottle, and took a deep drink. He felt the warmth of the liquor as the tears began to fall.
Collect things—that’s what I do. Yard sales, garage sales, thrift shops, consignment stores—these places are where I belong. There are so many treasures out there. So many things that people just want to throw away. Valuable things! Things that could use just a little bit of love. Some things just need a little paint. Sometimes its as simple as dusting them off and giving them a good cleaning before ta-da! They look brand new! Hoarder? No. No, I wouldn’t call myself that. I’m a collector. I collect things. That’s what I do! Who says I have a problem? I can see no issue with the way I live. These things, my things, they’re my treasures. Can you not see how each one of these items needs me? How I need them? Well, just let me tell you. Let me tell you, and then you will realize that I am not a hoarder. Oh no, I’ve never been a hoarder.
Ever since I was little, I have always held on to things: paper clips, receipts, dolls, stuffed animals, shoes, clothing, books, you name it. Why, you may ask? Well you see, each and every thing has value. You may think I’m a hoarder now, but just wait. I will show you how I am not a hoarder. I will show you how each and every item I own has meaning, or, a purpose if you will. Do you see this right here? This is the very first toothbrush that I ever bought. Garbage, you say? Blasphemy! You just don’t know how to repurpose it. Now think of it like this, and I swear you will understand why I must keep it. I may not be able to use this old thing for my teeth anymore, but what about cleaning other things? I can use it to scrub my watch collection, and to get into those tiny cracks in the floor. I can also use it to polish the dirt and dust off of my shoes! What do you think of that? Oh, well now you must be wondering why I need a whole collection of old toothbrushes. That’s simple! I don’t want to use the same toothbrush to scrub my watch collection that I used on the floor or my shoes! Are you finally beginning to understand? I am a collector! A treasure hunter! I have many titles, but I can assure you that hoarder is not one of them. “Oh, but look at all this mess!” You say. What mess? I see no mess! I only see possibilities. And memories. So many memories.
Do you see this porcelain doll? Her face may be broken, and she may be missing a limb–or two–but that’s not the point! I’ve had her since I was little. She was my best friend—my only friend. She may not look like much now, but at one point she was stunning! Her hair was a rich red, her eyes a brilliant blue. Her dress wasn’t a dingy shade of mustard like it is now, but a yellow as bright as the sun itself! She was there through it all, the sadness, the tears, the angry shouts emerging from my parents’ bedroom at two in the morning, the abuse that I watched my mother go through, and the abuse that was soon turned on me after she died. She was there for me when my father locked me in the closet for misbehaving, when he forced me to use my own toothbrush to clean the entire house on my hands and knees, when he told me I was worthless, selfish, and unworthy of any love from him, and even when he blamed me for the death of my mother. So you see, it was only fair of me to be there for her when my father pulled her from my arms and threw her against the wall, when her pretty little face shattered into a million tiny pieces across the kitchen floor. I picked up every little chip and placed them all into this plastic bag because it was my turn to take care of her.
I cannot let go of anything because each item I own represents a small part of who I am. So, think of me as a keeper of memories. A collector of all things that once were. The one who brings life to the things forgotten. But never, and I mean never, call me a hoarder.
February 9th, 2004 was the day that I turned ten years old. My childlike mind was full of excitement over the fact that I was finally turning a two-digit number. “Turning ten is a big deal,” I remember my dad telling me. “You’re no longer a little kid anymore. You’ve officially joined the big kids club!” This, of course, filled my little heart with pride, and my excitement for the day only grew stronger. My mother was busily preparing for my party. I had invited all of my close friends and was waiting impatiently at the door for their arrival.
Finally the time had come, and one by one cars begin pulling into the driveway. Sleepovers had always been my favorite way to celebrate my birthday, so my party guests entered my house lugging sleeping bags and pillows in preparation to spend the night. The kitchen table slowly began to fill with brightly wrapped boxes and big, shiny bags tied tightly with colorful bows and twisty ribbon. The kitchen held a variety of smells: the savory aroma of pepperoni pizza stacked high in cardboard boxes on the counter, the sweet and familiar smell of cookie cake that my mother had bought every year for my birthday, and the faint smell of my friends’ houses that lingered on their pillows and bags.
After scarfing down my last slice of cookie cake, I ran to my mother, begging her to let me open my presents now. After some convincing, she finally gathered everyone in the living room, and one by one I began to unbox or unbag the various gifts I had been given. To this day, I still love the sound of ripping wrapping paper and the slight crunch it makes as it falls to the floor. As usual, my mother would make me pause after opening each gift, pose for a quick picture, and then thank the person from whom the gift was from. Gift after gift was opened and this routine continued. Pause, pose, thank. Pause, pose, thank. Finally the sad moment had come in which I had reached my last present. This present was in a brightly colored bag with a tag reading, To Lindsey, Love Mom. Slowly and carefully, I tugged at the purple and blue ribbons, until the bag was open. After tearing through towers of tissue paper, I could finally catch a glimpse of the furry white ears that poked up through the opening. With a burst of excitement, I pulled out the fluffy, white bear with the purple, draw-string hoodie and quickly ran to my mother for a warm and loving embrace. It was in that moment that my “creative” ten year old mind decided that the most appropriate name for my new friend would be Mr. Bear.
My eyes opened. I was completely and totally shrouded in darkness. Fear struck my heart as I reached out, searching for something, anything, to hold on to. In my mind, the monsters began to form. They growled from beneath my “big girl” bed and snarled from inside my closet. My heart was racing and my palms began to sweat. I could feel the railing that surrounded my bed, protecting me from their reach, but my fear grew stronger and stronger. I felt the sobs rising up through my throat until I released them with a vicious scream! My wailing continued until the light flicked on and the soothing voice I had come to know so well enveloped me in warmth and love.