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The Discards of Spring

Saskatoon was freezing cold when I was there, at one point at night, -20 celcius plus nasty winds; but here in Korea, today felt just like spring. It was warm outside in the sun, warm enough anyway to feel nice with the sun on me, and not really wintry at all.

Today I did a lot of packing. I haven’t readjusted to Korean time, so I’m still waking at 4am, 4:30am, times like that. I’ve had lunch breaks and some breaks online — I find such things necessary to reduce the stress that the commenter on my previous post mentioned — but it’s basically been a long, long day of packing, and I’m nearing the reasonable limit of what I can do today.

It was strange, going through so many things. My mother is sorting through my father’s things, the reams of clothes, the little trinkets. I tried to do some of that with his computer, at least scavenging the photos from the hard drive for organization. Lives are really full of things, at least for us well-to-do modern types of people. About half of my boxes are full of books, which is stupid but it’s always been that way with me. Books, I didn’t discard so much, but other things I did.

Happily, there is a clothing-donation box near my soon-to-be previous apartment, so I spent some time going through my clothes, vowing to discard anything that (a) isn’t likely to comfortably and presentably fit after six months of serious exercise (which I’m planning to get back into) or (b) I haven’t worn in the last year. There were a surprising number of things that fit into these categories, and by the end of my labours there was a pile of clothing three feet tall.

Anyway, some of the things I discarded were laden with memories.

There was the pair of black jeans that I absolutely used to love. They were too small for me, and anyway, the last time Lime saw me wear them, almost two years ago, she couldn’t believe I liked them. She was right, though — Levis don’t fit me right.

There was an old T-shirt that I’d worn to innumerable gigs, my dark green shirt with a yellow star on the front, a Bangkok shirt that I’d gotten on my first trip there. The thing had been used far longer than it ought to have been, and I finally get it; T-shirts do have a usage-life, and it’s better not to push the limit.

There were some Oxford shirts I got just before I moved to Jeonju; they were white with stripes of different businesslike colors, and all of them were just not right somehow. They never did really fit me quite right, though after my 8 months of constant swimming in 2003, they did fit better in the old days. But anyway, those shirts, the thing was, I bought them only because they sort-of fit me. I learned another lesson — that if one can help it, one shouldn’t buy clothing just because it fits, or sort-of fits. Better to spend a little more money for one thing that fits and looks right, instead, even if it takes some hunting. (Hunting when I lived in Iksan meant — as far as I knew — a trip to Seoul, but still.)

There was a grey-and-orange-striped woman’s sock that I think probably made Lime wonder about me, early on in our relationship: one day, I said to her, “Oh, I found this sock of yours, but where is the other one?” She said it wasn’t hers, and then asked me how someone else’s sock got into my place. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now. I don’t think it was left behind by any of the very few previous women in my life, none of whom were the type to leave one sock behind when going home (except maybe that one who was just too young for me). Maybe it was left behind long ago, under the washing machine or something, and ended up in my stuff. I don’t know, but anyway, that enigmatic sock is now gone (in the trash, since I don’t think used socks, especially singles, are useful donations).

There was a somewhat ugly sarong I bought in Thailand, a blue one with fish, one-sided and not very pretty — a lot like my first trip to Thailand. I donated that thing, though; who knows, maybe someone will make a tablecloth out of it or something.

There was half of a printed draft of the novel I drafted in Dharamsala, Irreducible; the printer I was using began to run out of ink at page 250, and spat out a hundred pages more before I noticed it. I keep it mostly because I have a dangerous urge to read it over again. There’s a wonderful technological idea and I think the idea itself has a novel’s worth of energy to it, but the book itself has turned out to be my monkey-puzzle, as Bruce sterling called it in his Tomorrow, Now: you know, the coconut with the tasty treat in the middle, where the monkey reaches into the coconut for the treat, and when he closes his fist around it, he can never get his hand out of the coconut, because the hole is too small for the fist to get out. Irreducible is the novel project that has taunted me since I moved to Montreal in 1998, and I think it’s better I don’t return to that project… but I just couldn’t trash the whole draft, even if I have the whole set of files on my hard drive.

I think some of what’s so stressful about moving is being confronted by so many memories, all in a series of rapid waves, this and that thing from the past zooming into focus and then out of focus. I threw away the last of the clothes I carried over to Korea the first time I moved here, today, and into that same old huge black travel bag, I packed half (or, more like, a third) of the clothes I’ve accumulated since — some of them carried over the ocean, some of them from Thailand and India, and some of them from here in Korea. So many things from my past are just gone, gone. And the funniest thing of all, I learned today, is that most of the things that are gone, and the memories attached to them, don’t come to mind anyway, and the vast majority of those now-lost things will probably never come to mind, ever.

Funny, that.

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