Late July in Madrid was miserable. The weather was glorious; it was hot, but not quite ‘August hot’ and everyone was in holiday-mode; part of me forgot that I was a working professional and the six-week summer break was no longer applicable. And the reason I was sad was because after months of beers on the balcony, living in a bit of a bubble, and loving every moment of our Sol apartment life together, time at Casa Calle de Atocha was up.
I watched Esaú clear out his things as he packed his suitcase; the semester was over and he would be heading back to his native Mexico the following week, which I was trying very hard not to think about.
“Do you want this?”
“Probably this too, right?”
The only good thing to come from his leaving, was that I was going to inherit a few belongings he couldn’t quite fit into his case/those he would have thrown away, had I let him.
Esaú is not like me. He is organised. He is very black and white about some things. Nothing in his wardrobe is over 2 years old. If it doesn’t fit anymore, he throws it out. If the material is old, he throws it out. If something no longer fulfils its use, he doesn’t need it, therefore, that’s right, he throws it out. He is, what I would call, rational.
I, on the other hand, still have a plane ticket from when I went to Bangkok in 2011.
I probably still have most of my old boarding passes. Travel brochures of cities I’ve visited, museum passes, postcards, you name it, I’ve kept it.
“But…why?” Esaú couldn’t quite grasp my reasoning for wanting to hang on to E V E R Y T H I N G.
I would always give him the same answer, which has become a running joke between us. “Keep it for the memories”.
“Sam, it’s an old cinema ticket…”
Okay, so it seems a bit much I’ll admit, and just to make this clear, I don’t literally hold onto every piece of paper that passes through my hands. In this case, it wasn’t just any old cinema ticket, it was from one of our very first dates together. I explained this to him (blushing a lovely shade of beetroot the whole time) and he gave me a little smile, which partly said “you’re a bit nuts” and partly “that’s quite sweet actually”, or so I’d like to think.
For me, the little things count, and, as insignificant or disposable as they might appear to someone on the surface, perhaps just another proof of purchase, or silly souvenir with googly-eyes; if something holds a certain connection to a specific memory, and reminds me of a time I wish to treasure; a moment I would like to revisit long after it has passed, then it carries a completely different value altogether.
Admittedly, I am a hoarder. I don’t like throwing things away. I am a romantic at heart, a sensitive soul who gets attached to objects all too easily, should they remind me of a certain person, place, or a moment that was special to me. But having moved around so often, it’s times like these, when you’re packing and unpacking, that you have to decide what stays and what goes, and in this case, Esaú had a point.
So I’ve learnt from my ways. I no longer keep a hold of as many things and I’ve become a bit more selective with my choice of memorabilia. When all’s said and done, I’ve realised, it is not the object I’m attached to, but rather, the moment I associate it with.
In the end, are all these little trinkets and keepsakes worth, well, just that – the sake of keeping?
As I pondered over this great debate, Esaú continued to sort through the remainder of his things. It was interesting to observe the thought-process behind someone-else’s packing, especially when their method was so different, and from my perspective, cut-throat. A small voice in the back of my head wondered what had happened to all the tickets he must have gone through on his various trips in the past year alone *sigh* ‘What a collection there could have been’
His process was very thorough, efficient, and managed without distraction (impressive, considering I always get in the way, whether intentionally or not).
But something was off.
He had paused. There was a moment of lapse in his concentration; a glitch in the matrix.
His wardrobe looked really sad. Only a bundled-up duvet remained, lonely on its shelf. All of his possessions had been snatched from where they used to hang happily at home, now neatly tucked away, bound inside the almost-ready suitcase. All of his things that is, save for one or rather two items.
“How long have you had those boots?”
He was stood over and staring poignantly at the pair of leather booties, which had made their way out of the wardrobe but not quite into the suitcase. Slightly scuffed, and a little worn in, these boots would probably be considered ‘past-it’ in Esaú’s book, but by my standards, I think they still had a lot of life left in them yet.
He always takes extremely good care of his belongings, including this particular pair of boots. They were frequently cleaned, polished and treated with the tender love and care they deserved. So why would he throw them? Well, they didn’t look like new, and they’d been around for longer than a couple of years. They were, I had supposed, about to get the boot.
And actually, this is what’s curious. After adopting Esaú’s way of thinking and attempting to ‘cut back’ as it were on my addictive nature of collecting bits and bobs, I felt two things:
- Freer. There is no guilt now when throwing away decidedly unnecessary items. Disposing of an entrance band does not mean I won’t remember enjoying the gig.
- The pickier I am with the things I keep, the greater their sentimental value becomes.
Which was exactly what was running through my boyfriend’s head in that very moment.
These were not just a pair of shoes. They told a story. His story.
“You know, you don’t have to throw them…”
“It’s just…they’ve been everywhere with me.”
His little face said it all. The boots had gotten the green light. They would live to see another day, and I was certain, many more countries.
These boots had trekked pretty much all over Europe; endured puddles in London, the Dublin terrain during winter, and the bar crawls in Paris. The soles had undergone many a city tour, they’d seen Prague, Budapest and even Singapore. They’d been on trains, planes, and tuk-tuks; survived the snow-filled streets of Toronto (their origin) and the immense humidity of bustling Bangkok. They’d been trodden on by fellow tourists, they’d had to run to catch domestic and international flights and they’d been loyal when the weather was less so; they’d travelled three continents and had stayed faithful throughout it all.
For this reason precisely, they wouldn’t make it into the case.
Instead, they would be doing what they do best, and taking him on the long flight home, accompanying him on what was to be another adventure.
With this decision finalized, the suitcase was zipped up and the padlock firmly secured. Everything that needed to be, was stowed away safely. Including, I had noticed, every single gift I’d given him. Every token I’d bought him from a trip I’d been on, be it a shot glass or a tiny seashell; a colourful magnet or a novelty keyring – they’d all been carefully packed away first. It warmed the cockles of my heart.
We’re all big softies really.
Whether we openly admit it or not, I am pretty sure everyone keeps ‘silly little things’ purely for their sentimental value.
This couldn’t be more true than when you’re in a long-distance relationship.
When your person is no longer there, at least not physically, a lot of what you have left when they’ve gone, is the comfort of their memory.
A week went by, and it came time for Esaú (and his boots) to make their way home. Things just didn’t feel the same once he’d gone. My room was bare, the small balcony was now far too big and to be completely honest, I couldn’t help but feel like my heart had a great big fat hole in it.
Going from seeing someone everyday to not at all can make you miss every little thing about them, those aspects that you had become so familiar with before, and also, let’s face it, those you had taken for granted. For this reason alone, I was happy I’d saved those tickets, the silly snapchat videos, the trinkets from our days out together, and it goes without saying, every sweet and thoughtful gift he had given me during our time together. Because, until we would see each other again, these collectables would make the distance that little bit less painful, and help keep our memories very much alive, comforting me in the fact that there would be more like that to come.
Don’t tell, but I also kept his old metrocard when he left.