Inside my closet, on the first shelf of the door to the left, there’s a black box. It’s a cardboard box with black and brown stripes and a solid black top. I bought it at Ikea, for no particular purpose, but it ended up being your box. When I speak to people about your box I call it the black box, like the ones on the airplanes. It serves the same purpose. It contains memories.
Every time I open my closet door, and that is several times a day, I look at it. It’s there, sitting on the shelf, not saying much. Not saying anything at all. It’s just a box. But to me, it’s always whispering. It wants to be noticed. It sits there looking at me, and saying: Look at me, I’m that big pink elephant in the middle of the room. I’m here!
But I tell myself that it’s just a black box.
Every so often, I take it out, and I climb onto my bed with it. I caress the top, and slowly whisper to it, like taming a wild animal that it’s about to burst open. I tame it. I speak to it, and we have a long silent dialog for a while. And then I open it. And so does my heart.
I make a careful inventory of its contents. It’s a ritual. The box knows it and so do I. We take everything out. It lets me. We take every single item out. Every memory. And every tear. There’s an order to everything inside the box. There’s an order to every emotion that comes with it. First comes the envelope with your graduation picture. It’s a CVS photo envelope with two copies of your cap and gown picture. The one that post office bent, although the envelope clearly said “Do Not Bend”. That one. The one I got to keep. Then comes a small notebook, a diary, where I wrote a note the day you left the office when you got the job in IT. It ends like this: “…and half my life is walking out the door with him.”
Then comes the t-shirt and the bib for the 5K we ran together. I don’t know why I placed it inside the box, but I guess it reminds me of so many times we’ve wanted to do races together, and only this time we did. Then come the sunglasses. The ones you gave me because you thought I would like them. I never told you I hated them. They’re ugly, they look ugly on me. But I wouldn’t tell you, because I wouldn’t want to hurt your feelings. But now you know, they’re ugly as funk.
The second layer of the contents becomes harder to take out. Is a thick mess of memories, each tangled up with the other, so deeply connected. Here is when I start crying. Here is why I never want to open the black box. There’s another tiny black box, containing the glass picture of yourself you gave me for Christmas last year. It’s so vivid I want to break it every time I see it, because maybe if I do, you will come out of your cage. You’re frozen inside the glass. Breaking it won’t free you. Breaking it only breaks me.
The heels. Those heels have never set foot on the ground. There isn’t a single scratch on their soles, not a spec of dust. But those heels have traveled many miles with us. Many beds. Many…
Your boxers and briefs. The tie. The silver tie and the silk scarf are together. They belong together. There’s no way on earth they can ever be apart. They have a mind of their own, even if I place them neatly next to each other, the next time I open the box they have manage to tangle themselves together. Like we did, at some point.
Then there’s a towel that you left in my car. Or in yours and I took it. Or at my old apartment. I can’t remember. It’s a towel, thick and soft. I keep it because it creates a nice soft mattress for the rest of the items in the box. As if it’d protect them from any damage.
The last three items I keep in a bundle. They also belong together like the tie and the scarf. But on a level so deep that nothing could tear them apart. Nothing. It’s the shirt you wore the night we went to Blue Martini. The night I told you I loved you. The night before the morning when, having realized I hadn’t said that out of being drunk, you told me you loved me. Wrapped inside it are two of the most valuable things I keep in this box. Your dog tags. And a necklace you gave me of dark purple beads and a feather.
Your dog tags say that you are A+. Just like me. Blood of my blood.
After I’ve ripped my soul open, the ritual ends. I put everything back in the box, in the exact same order that it came out. I carefully fold every piece of clothing. Set the shoes in place. Your picture. Everything in a way that it doesn’t get disturbed by anything else. Every item in this box coexists with the others. They purposely belong to each other. In harmony.
Tonight I have done my black box ritual one more time. I have taken careful account of my inventory. I have recalled every memory. Shed every tear. But tonight there’s a new item inside.
I left my heart in the black box. Because my heart doesn’t want to be anywhere else, but where it one day, was very happy.