into the crawlspace


Lately I’ve been trying to organize the attic. Emphasize “trying.” As I’ve said before, and I will say again, I am NOT the world’s neatest and most organized person, but my heart is in the right place, even if my flannel sheets and table settings are not.

In the attic, everything is even less organized than in the rest of the house, principally because I feel more empowered to be a slob there, but also because so many people have died and left me boxes and boxes and boxes of things that I have then proceeded to cram into shadowy recesses and ignore and/or contemplate and/or weep over as the mood struck. No matter how hard I try to catalog and winnow down these boxes and boxes and boxes, there always remain yet MORE boxes and boxes and boxes, which seem to reproduce and spread all over the attic floor like mating horseshoe crabs or some asexually reproducing giant fungus.

This past weekend, I began to combat the fungus. I started by squeezing my body into a horrific nasty dusty crawlspace along eaves that my late husband devised for the storage of fans in the off-season, fan boxes in the on-season, and which I had lately used to shove bags of Christmas wrapping and bins of all sorts of old and vaguely disturbing shit, including a broken electronic keyboard and my now-grown-up daughters’ naked weirdo Barbies. You know about naked weirdo Barbies, right? That’s what happens to Barbie dolls after being played with for years and years and then, through no fault of their own, suddenly abandoned: they shed all their clothes in grief and congregate in clear plastic containers for yet more years and years of silent mortification. They are the Byzantine hermits of plastic playthings.

Also shoved into that horrific nasty dusty crawlspace were several massive pieces of luggage dating from the Eisenhower Administration, probably earlier, perhaps dating to the nation’s genesis (or at least the genesis of Naugahyde), each individual piece filled with roughly four tons of my mother’s, father’s and sister’s papers. Because I, too, am a Byzantine hermit bent on mortifcation, I crawled inside, scraping my bare kneecaps as I went, and then crawled back outside, again scraping my bare kneecaps as I went, hauling each 8,000-pound bag with a mix of stubbornness and delusional conviction that I was actually accomplishing something. I scraped my kneecaps again in pursuit of the empty fan boxes, which I then crushed swiftly and mercilessly. Yay for me. I was cleaning! I was organizing! I was proud!

After dragging all the pulverized cardboard and weirdo naked Barbies to the curb on garbage night, ignoring the all the blood and pus oozing from my saintly lower limbs, I then amused myself by opening up each four-ton piece of luggage and weeping a little over some of the contents before closing it and shoving it back into the crawlspace. I then amused myself further by hauling 16 boxes of my late husband’s papers and books from the main attic storage room, weeping a little over those, too, and then shoving them into the hole with my parents’ and sister’s stuff, scraping my kneecaps as I went.

So now every piece of paper collected by my late loved ones — Mama, Daddy, Lucy, Chris — is collected in that one handy (if horrific nasty dusty) attic crawlspace along the bookshelves. I like that they’re all together there, holding fort in a corner of my house. (JUST FOR GOD’S SAKE, NO ONE ELSE DIE, OKAY?) Someday I’ll go through it all. Someday I’ll organize it. Someday I’ll make sense of everything in my life, all of the boxes, all of the luggage, all of the vaguely disturbing shit. After my kneecaps recover.



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