I Kept Everything by Erin McIntosh

The high school graduation invitation from my neighbor,
a film canister of teeth I lost, ready to be retrieved
by the tooth fairy, plastic dollhouse furniture, theater
programs, every letter ever sent or given me by
my childhood friends Anne and Traci. We were prolific
letter writers. I don’t know the last name of the last person
I kissed but I still have a Ziplock baggie filled
with pieces of sticks, twigs, leaves, and a pine cone.
I paw through boxes of bears, like the one
my grandfather found under a tree and gave to me when
I was crying, or the one the neighbor boy brought
to my birthday party when I was curled on the sofa,
also crying. It smelled like perfume and I thought
I loved him. I want to leave my job and never come back
but I am old enough now to know leaving is not
equivalent to a clean slate. Just look at all this stuff.
One hundred dollars a month to store, and all because
my father no longer wanted to be reminded
of his other daughter in this other state. I am making
that part up. I don’t actually know why he wanted
to be rid of it or why he asked for my phone number
and then never called. I have a letter from the first boy
I fell hard for and it’s like a love letter but not quite.
I haven’t spoken to him since I was a teenager
and this only reaffirms my current thinking, that maybe
we’re better off this way, never holding hands. I don’t want you
to turn into another person I hate. There are rocks here
too, and clay and beads and shells. There is a pearl
I wanted to be a real pearl and I kept it in a tiny tin box
wrapped in a piece of fabric inside of another box.
I get differing advice: to save certain things for posterity
or to throw it all away. I’ve been shedding belongings
all my life. Sometimes this takes seconds, sometimes years.
I used to collect postcards and stickers but now I collect
mornings waking up in other people’s beds or glances
thrown my way like breadcrumbs. Hunger and I have never been
strangers. Someday there will be another pile to sort through
and these bracelets might go into a trash bin along with
the rock you brought back from Machu Picchu, the time
you went there with your girlfriend, the thought of whom
used to make me want to cry. But not yet.

Erin McIntosh
img_5969_optErin McIntosh is a writer and actress currently living in Los Angeles. Her writing has appeared and is forthcoming in various journals including Two Serious Ladies, Bone Bouquet, Lavender Review, Cleaver Magazine, Gravel, Plenitude Magazine, and Potluck Mag. Visit her at www.erinmcintoshofficial.com.