My friend the banker taught me how to make eggs. Small pan, a spritz of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, one side and then over. Easy. But mine don’t look like his. Mine are all tapioca-yellow broken-yoke muddle, his are all golden-brown, fluffy, yokes intact. Break them and the gold runs along your plate to the margins, waiting to be curled into a piece of toast.
My friend the banker recently bought a house. A duplex, to be exact. My friend the banker is 25 years old, and not even really a banker. He works at an investment bank, though, so it’s easiest to call him that. Snappier, too. My friend the banker is a snappy dresser and snappy with zingers to toss around. It fits, like the Mini Cooper he drives with the vanity plate that you couldn’t even imagine.
I explained the problems that I outlined yesterday to my friend the banker. He was uniquely qualified to comment on my situation, having no small number of his own things in my house, due to circumstances beyond his control. At first, he said that there were some things he would like to keep for posterity, and recommended gutting the house of its items and throwing everything in an above-ground garage. Expensive, semi-sentimental, and sensible, I thought. Then my friend the banker thought about it for another minute and spoke again.
“Throw it all away,” he said.
It caused me no small amount of joy to hear that. I consider it a healthy attitude to take toward one’s early youth, especially when is looking at it in the rear-view mirror. My friend the banker is moving in with his girlfriend, and embarking on a new life entirely of his choosing. It is altogether admirable. It’s something I did once.
That conversation was two weeks ago, on a highway in Phoenix, Arizona. Last weekend, I was face-to-face with my friend the banker’s stuff. Old photos, trophies, clothes, mementos, in boxes that chirped their owners’ suggestion to throw them out over the pulsating sound of the Bose speaker upstairs.* I did not do it. It’s not because I don’t respect my friend the banker’s wishes, but because having been reminded of the power of memory through the process of clearing the clutter from my own past, I have been reminded how it changes, like the colors of a sunset.
You know that moment at dusk when everything gets lighter all of a sudden, like someone pressed rewind on the night for 30 seconds? Doesn’t the same thing happen in life? I think it does, and I don’t know if my friend the banker has gotten there yet. And if he hasn’t, I can’t deprive him the opportunity to watch, in awe and wonder, as it appears the clocks are turning backward, that 8 o’clock has become 7:45, the the world has started spinning in the opposite direction, and that things that have faded in importance for him become, against all odds, resonant once more, final, shining beacons to the past.
So I’m careful. I throw away the trash. I’m respectful of the past, and of the future. I’m as consistent as possible. But last weekend even I was taken aback when I found a shark hand puppet that belonged to me when I was six years old, and it all came swirling back, all of it. I put it in a box and onto a shelf and, unbowed, headed back to my project, the broken yokes of old dreams all around me, trying desperately not to break any more.
* On a lighter note, the Bose iPod dock is, in the words of C.P., the sixth man of the maintenance work. That thing is out. of. control. Wizardry.