Thursday, July 07, 2005

I have a cold, dead heart.

So, I lose things. I think this is why I have no sentimental attachment to anything I own. It’s simple self-defense; if I don’t get attached to it, I won’t miss it when it inevitably disappears. It all started when I was about eight years old, and I suddenly realized that at the pile of useless ticket stubs I was saving because I thought I was supposed to care about them meant nothing to me at all. I threw them out, and felt this amazing sense of release.

This habit of clearing out old clutter has stuck with me. During my second year of grad school, I went through my box of old photos and threw out a huge stack of them. My housemate and his brother were there, and as I started to dump the pictures into the trash, they said, “No! Stop! How can you throw away photos?” But then I showed them the pictures. I had taken them in grade school, and for the most part they were bad snapshots of people whose names I couldn’t remember. The rest of them were just bad snapshots. Housemate and his brother looked at the pictures and said, “Oh, uh, go right ahead,” gesturing towards the trash.

Cards are another thing. If someone goes to the trouble of picking out a card, it seems wrong, somehow, to throw that card in the recycling bin. Or it used to. Now I say, “Oh, look, a card. Isn’t that nice!” and then I throw it out. If it’s also addressed to The Husband I make sure to show it to him first, but either way, it’s gone by the day’s end. It seems cold, I know, but why hold onto a card, only to find it weeks or months later and then throw it out? Upon first witnessing my card-tossing act, The Husband felt that same liberation I felt when I tossed my ticket stubs, and now he’s a convert.

And pens! How many times have you pulled a disposable pen from a drawer, and, finding out that it’s out of ink, put it back in the drawer? Throw it out! The ink is not coming back, people. When I see people putting an exhausted pen back in the drawer, I usually tell them to throw it out instead. A look of amazement crosses always comes over their faces. “You mean I don’t have to save used up pens for the rest of time? That’s brilliant!”

But no item holds deep sentimental value for me. None. Because when you get right down to it, your great-great grandfather’s pocket watch is just a thing. In explaining this to The Husband at one point, I tried to find an example of something that should be so special to me I’d never part with it, and then tell him my theoretical price for selling said item. “Take my engagement ring, for example,” I said to The Husband. “If someone offered me, say a million dollars for it, I’d sell it in a heartbeat.”

The Husband looked taken aback. “Oh, did I hurt your feelings?” I said. He nodded. But what could I do? I couldn’t take it back. I said it. I obviously meant it. “But, it’s not worth a million dollars,” I said, trying to reason with him. “I could buy another one exactly like this one, and we’d have a lot of money left over!”

I managed to mollify him, but it’s a good thing I didn’t tell him the real price I’d be willing to sell it for. Because it’s a lot less than a million dollars.

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