Isn’t it funny how an entire relationship can end up inside of a box?
Here are the tickets to that museum we went to. And here is the tiny stone-carved figurine of a moose I purchased. And there is a bundle of every single note I wrote in the morning when I left for work. And there is a bundle of every single card I mailed [because that’s a cute thing to do, okay?]. And here is a miscellaneous collection of underwear, socks, and my neon green gym t-shirt. My deodorant and toothbrush and Olay face lotion. A broken hair brush. A phone charger. The chessboard.
The chessboard. The one that spent hours and hours between us at the kitchen table. The one that saw glass after glass of red wine consumed while we relished the unique satisfaction of taking piece after piece off the board. Each one a small victory over the other. I outsmarted you. You outsmarted me. Just so someone could be the winner.
Here it all is in this Rubbermaid box that was left on my stoop on an ice-cold and windy day in Boston.
A lot of things go through your mind when you wrap your wool-knit oversized sweater around your shivering self and stare down at your Relationship Box on the stoop.
The first thing is: It’s really fucking cold outside.
The second thing is: What am I supposed to do with a Rubbermaid container this big?
The third thing is: Well, this really fucking sucks.
I grab the box by the handle and drag it up my marble stairs and unceremoniously dump its contents on the floor. [I’ll tell you one thing: There really isn’t anything more “final” than receiving your underwear in a box.]
Arya the dog is irrationally interested in its contents. She wags her tail and sniffs excitedly at every single item like it’s the first time she’s ever seen my underwear on the floor. She thinks it’s a very fun game. I laugh when she storms over the items to lick my face.
Okay, Arya, this is serious. Let’s try to focus here. I move Arya aside and spread the items around me in a circle. I sit cross-legged and do some deep breathing.
This is fine. This is all fine.
Arya steals a sock from the pile and plops beside the fireplace to tear it apart. She’s such a good girl.
[Heavy sigh.] Here we go. First things first. What goes in the garbage?
The chessboard? I pick the board up and run my hand across its smooth surface. The board folds in half to safely store the pieces. It has a regal gold latch and a green velvet interior lining. The pieces clatter over each other inside as I turn it around. I give it a shake to hear them rattle against the velvet. I love playing chess. I might want to use this some day. But will it remind me of the nights we stayed up late trying to beat each other?
I put the board back in the pile.
What about this tiny moose figurine? Or this picture frame? Or this deck of cards? I pick up every single item. Each one is a memory. I let it wash over me for as long as it needs to. Some of them only last moment [the neon green gym t-shirt]. Some of them are longer. Each item fills me up inside. The laughter, the sadness, the anger, the entire weight of a year.
And then I let it go.
I don’t need any of this. I don’t want any of it either. All of it belongs in the garbage. Including this ridiculously superfluous Rubbermaid tote. Why? Because that’s what you’ve got to do when a giant box of your relationship ends up on the stoop. You look at it all. You remember all the good times, and the bad times, and the times between. And then you put the entire thing in the garbage.
The chessboard though? The chessboard is beautiful. The shellacked surface shines in the low lamp lighting. I reach for it again and undo the latch. Inside is a cluster of hand-carved wooden pieces. And there she is: The white Queen. I always used the white pieces. She was my champion. I never won a game without her. I dig a fingernail into the ridge of her crown, leaving a crescent-shaped indent in the wood. Then, I put her back in with the rest of her pieces.
Shoving the entire set under my arm, I stride over to my desk. With shaking hand, I write with a flourish on a piece of stock paper: FREE TO A GOOD HOME.
The chessboard is on my stoop. The rest of the box is in the garbage.
I let Arya keep the sock. It’s surely in tatters by now anyway.