Thursday, March 04, 2004

What's in your wallet?

It's been a while, I know. I'm in the process of buying my first home--or, I should say, I've purchased a very excellent front doorknob and the bank has graciously agreed to let me live behind it for the next 30 years. So: distracted.

I've spent the last week making random, erratic forrays into packing. This should be relatively simple: I last moved just a couple years ago, and in the intervening 26 months spent assorted free weekends sorting through and streamlining all the crap I'd shoveled desperately into the truck in the preceding move. Did I really need my lecture notes from "Race, Gender, and Identity in Literature" from 1991? There probably won't be another quiz. The mates to stray socks are not waiting at the new house. Waldenbooks pay stubs totalling $119/week can be safely shredded.

I did find myself, last night, going through a bulging, cracking old wallet that I'd stuck in a drawer when I downsized to a just-the-essentials model last year. It's like moving, in a microcosm: Which of these possessions were significant enough to your essential self that you carried them around with you? How do they define, quite literally, your identity? How have you changed? It's an old standby writer's exercise: what's in your character's wallet, and why?

Let's look.

* Driver's license from 1994. I had bangs. I had not previously considered mascara. Hide this one from my future children.
* Reciepts from movie rentals. I think I'm done with "Memento" now.
* Defunct Eddie Bauer charge card. A closer examination of the move-induced Closet Reorg would not suggest that I had let this lapse, what with Mr. Bauer's signature on 82% of everything I own.
* Punch card for Elliott Bay Book Company.
* Punch card for Second Story Bookstore. I'm sensing a trend.
* Two different punch cards for Papyrus, the greeting card store.
* Punch card for Subway.
* Punch card for Taco del Mar.
* Punch card for Lane Bryant undergarments. I sense a more unfortunate trend.
* Staggering amount of loose change that changes the wallet dimensions to more those of a brick.
* Ticket stub from the X-Files movie. Aw. Remember when I wanted to be Scully? Pre-LA, pre-Duchovny leaving, pre-what-the-hell-have-they-done-to-this-show-is-Chris-Carter-on-crack Scully? That was awesome.
* A note from my sister, when she was a small child. I've actually carried this around for maybe 20 years. It's a two-inch stub of notebook paper, outlined and torn from a separate sheet; in green ink, it says, "I like you Kim," and it's signed.

I kept the note, again. It's so her; that's the thing. It's economical: why waste a whole sheet of paper on few words? It has her name on it, too, in case you weren't sure where to focus your attention or reciprocal affection. And it's very particular in its semantics: she likes me. Sure, she loves me; she's my sibling, it's a genetic imperative. But she likes me, too. Or she did, once. I'm not so sure that the adults we've grown into would find enough common ground to be friends, had the established relationship not pre-existed. But the note is evidence of a sort: that we had more than one set of matching dresses, once upon a time...and that we had slapfights over particular rugby shirts and patterned ski sweaters, later. That we have the same wicked cackle and can finish each other's sentences. That I read "Mickey Mouse and the Haunted Mansion" to her so many times I can still quote pages verbatim. That once we fit into the same bathtub. That she'll be 31 next Wednesday, but occasionally I still picture her in a knit Tootsie-Roll pompom hat.

She'll never read this...I haven't tipped the family off to the blog, yet. But happy birthday anyway, sisty.

Oh, and you look like a monkey, and you smell like one too.

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