I'm moving this week, to be closer to the Orthodox Jewish neighborhood. Having spent so many years in different grad schools and programs over the past decade--Loyola Marymount, Purdue, Cornell--I've moved back and forth a lot. Moving my life from one community to another has become routine. But even though the movers will arrive tomorrow morning, I find myself just sitting in my place, looking around at all of my stuff, waiting for it to pack itself.
I think it's the fault of a friend who wrote to me yesterday. He said that, for him, the most difficult part of moving is realizing that, as one packs and sorts the material things, invariably there are memories that one begins to sort and unpack. Memories: their tentacles clinging to all sorts of unlikely objects.
A white embroidered tablecloth stuffed in the back of a cabinet, a small blood stain on the corner: reminds me of a dear friend who was dealing with an addiction. He stayed at my house one night many years ago, his nose bleeding right onto my tablecloth.
A framed poster advertising the inaugural North American Levinas Society conference: reminds me of the time and tears our little group put into something that would grow beyond our wildest dreams, taking on a life of its own.
A shrunken silk sweater: reminds me of the girlfriend who shrunk it because she didn't follow the washing instructions; reminds me how angry I was at her for ruining my favorite sweater; reminds me of how much I love and miss her.
But because I've moved so frequently, there aren't many things that remain to cause grief. I discard them with each move.
But, the books. I've been collecting them since before high school, and I would never let one go. I have boxes and boxes of books. I have enough to build a home. And every time I open one as I slip it into a cardboard box, I look for my notes and annotations. And I read the midrash in the margins. "*See Blanchot!" I kept seeing in the margins of one book in particular. It's amazing: I haven't yet found one marginal note that doesn't remind me of exactly who I was and where I was at the time I wrote it.
My entire life is contained in my books. I've written my entire story in the narratives and philosophical musings of others. It's all there, every last second. And only I can read it.