When I was a little kid my parents went away for a while and left my sister and me with a babysitter. I remember the whole weekend, or week (kids, like dogs, can’t really perceive duration of time, it’s all infinite and interminable) as being really sad and lonely. One night I walked into my parents room and saw all my dad’s junk on his nightstand and felt so relieved and comforted by it, as if suddenly remembering that if I sat among my parents’ things–in particular I’m remembering my dad’s stuffed koala with the dumb arms that velcroed into a “hug” around a coffee mug that was full of magic markers and pencils– it would be like they were there a little bit.
When my dad had a heart attack some years ago I drove to the hospital, following the ambulance, and my sister had a friend drive her down from school to meet us there. That night, when my dad was in the ICU, my mom stayed with him while my sister and I went home to take care of the dog and wait things out. Upon returning home I saw little puddles of wetness from where the paramedics had tried to start an IV and the wrappers and plastic caps from syringes near the chair where he’d been sitting when it happened. I think there was even one of those suction cup things they put on your chest. My mom called to say that she had been making hot chocolate for my dad and had left some milk in the microwave and could I remember to take it out. I remember thinking at the time that if my dad didn’t make it, the fucking milk from the hot chocolate that was left in the microwave would kill me.
Some years later we were all in Las Vegas and, included in the room service, was a tiny bottle of Tabasco. It was so cute that we decided to give it a name, as I’m wont to do with far too many inamimate objects. My dad chose Thad, short for Thaddeus. On the drive home he passed out from medication he was taking (referred to in the family as the Fake Heart Attack, or Fake HA, for short, as we thought he was having another heart attack.) He spent the night in the hospital in the desert and I spent the night thinking that you just can’t name a tiny bottle Thad and then die right away.
I’m really not ok with the way people can pass out of your life, or out of life in general, but their stuff remains. I could go on about pets and their collars and kennels and water bottles. About boyfriends and their phones and shirts and watches. About friends who died leaving whole houses of stuff behind.
People’s stuff makes them so human. And everything human seems to make me ache.
I was thinking about this in the subway station the other day. And I was thinking that I should write something about this someday, about the poetry of junk, and then I was thinking that in my current vocation there would never be a chance to do that, not even a little. And then the train came.