I'm moving. I'm sorting, editing and throwing away. I have a considerable collection of what I call archival files; my diaries and journals going back to 1968 as well as plays, screenplays, collections of poetry, novels, short stories. This also includes reviews for my work, PR photos, and magazines in which my work was published or reviewed. This takes up apprx. four milk cartons. But wait there is more.
There is the hat I am wearing. Which belonged to my grandfather. May he rest in peace. Yesterday I told myself you are throwing it out. And you are throwing out Suzie, the doll I've had since I've been five, the sweater my mother knit when I was fourteen, the multi-colored gypsy skirt that I was arrested in (which I wore with a pink feather boa and a walking stick), the pink pearl necklace I wore on my wedding day, the faux Cartier tank watch from my father, and a small marble antique clock engraved with: If time stood still I would love you forever, 1980. In addition, I have birthday cards going back to the 1970's, letters, and hundreds of photos.
I have a hand-written letter from a brother who no longer speaks to me. It's dated 1977. He writes: Everyone is moving away. The house feels really strange. My heart ached for him when I read this. However, I am challenging myself to edit this collection of archives. I had my grandfather's cap in my hand over the garbage bag, but I couldn't do it. I just couldn't. And not to Suzie either. I did throw away the pearls and I did burn a letter from my ex. I finally threw away the boarding pass for my flight home to say good bye to my mother. That was difficult. I trashed the skirt, but not before smelling it. I know--- its weird.
I wondered: what would happen if I threw all this out? What if I threw out the small maroon diary that begins in 1968 and contains an account of the night I was raped? What if I threw out a notebook from 1969 filled with poetry and covered in romantic graffiti, Lillian Loves Fred. Then Joe. Then Fred again. A three ring binder of autumn leaves I collected before I moved, pictures of my brothers, poetry I clipped from The New Yorker--- a kind of momento mori to my days, my childhood, my family at 2616 circa 1977. Talismans. Proof I existed. Proof of the past. But do I need all this anymore?
Practically, it takes up so much space! I've been carrying it for 32 years. I've needed it to shape and create my identity, I've needed it for continuity. The thought of throwing it all away filled me with awe, imagine: a blank canvas. At a time when I really need to recreate myself. I just don't know if I can do it. I just don't know what I still need. Last May I challenged myself to ruthlessly edit my library--- and succeeded in dividing it by half. This has really pleased me. I like the spare lines of each section: literature, philosophy, fiction, psychology, mysticism and religion.
But the hat. I don't know if I can throw away the hat. And if I can't throw away the hat. I can't throw away anything.
Creator and co-author of the award winning The Erotica Project. Author of erotic short stories published on Salon.com. Producer/author for NPR. MA from NYU. Published by Cleis Press, Seal Press, Heinemann Press, New York Press. Reviewed in NYTimes, Village Voice, Art in America, London Sunday Times.