I’m going to try not to write every time this happens over the next few months, but this was the first time and therefore significant.
On Friday I separated my books from E’s. We have one giant bookcase, a few shelves and a few boxes filled with books. The shelves are mostly mine – stuff I’m currently reading about birth/personal growth, along with such titles as Making Out In Japanese, The Teddy Bear Philosophy, and Nat’l Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Seashore Creatures. We have another shelf that’s dedicated to E’s cookbooks (although, he’s also fond of stacking them on his nightstand, because he often reads them in bed). The boxes are a conglomeration of books that wouldn’t fit on the shelves – favorites from my childhood that I just can’t give up (Yang the Youngest and His Terrible Ear, Matilda, The Ancient One, etc.), as well as several books from E’s life as a Russian Studies major (I would list titles, but they’re all in Russian). The bookcase is organized alphabetically (by author), by topic. Topics include: Personal Growth (with a sub-category of “DIY”), Language (French, Russian, Spanish, Japanese), Travel Guides, Fiction, Non-Fiction, Space (yes, E actually has enough books about space to warrant its own category), Yoga/Ayurveda and Birth.
I was in a hurry on Friday, so I just started pulling books from the shelves/boxes – one pile to take with me to Connecticut, one pile to get rid of entirely, one pile to store at my parents’. Sorting through books is necessarily nostalgic, and although I didn’t have time for nostalgia, I did find myself wondering if certain books were mine, or E’s. I finished my task and ran to work. Sitting at the desk, the weight of what just happened started to sink in. E and I have been steadily knitting our lives together for the last 4.5 years – diminishing the boundaries between Mine and His, imagining a future together – and now we are beginning the process of unraveling (perhaps not un-coincidently, I have begun to knit obsessively and listen to The Sweater Song with increased frequency). Now we talk about our futures in terms of our own goals, what we hope to accomplish that will set ourselves apart, while at the same time sadly acknowledging the holes we will leave in each other’s lives. When E picked me up from work and I told him about the books, he became concerned and asked how the bookcase looked. Knowing what he meant, I told him that I couldn’t bear the empty shelves either, so I filled them with his books in storage.
As I drove my books down to my parents’, I wondered what I would do if they hadn’t agreed to let me store some things there, which led to thoughts about where to send my mail, which led to thoughts about my “permanent residence.” All throughout college, and while I was in Japan, I listed my parents’ home as my place of permanent residence. On the forms I’ve been filling out for nursing school, I’ve been listing my address here, in San Francisco. I became suddenly panicked by the idea that I would no longer have a permanent residence, no home-base, when I left for school. I’ve always said that no matter where I went, you’d have to pry my California driver’s licence from my cold, dead fingers, but what if I had to give up my residency here? Where is Home, if not the Bay Area, California, if not with my parents, if not with E?
In case you’re worried that it’s all feelings of fragility and my Orphan running amuck, here’s some gallows humor:
Me: So we started talking about my childhood in therapy the other day.
Linds: You just started talking about that?! What else have you been talking about this whole time?
Me: Breaking up with my boyfriend.
E: I’m glad to know I took priority over your childhood.