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Does Everything Become Ordinary?

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I am consumed by the question, “Why do we tire of things?”  We tire of music, however shocking and original it was.  We tire of people who were once the brightness in our day.    Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring will never produce another riot.  A mini skirt lost the ability to offend.  We don’t notice art after being subject to a masterpiece for any length of time, even a terrifying Calder.

Alexander Calder painted a seven-legged dog with furious red teeth and eyes.  When I first positioned this animal adjacent to my couch, I had trouble sitting still.  While trying intently to read a page or nap in the sunlight, my eyes were pulled in the direction of this primary-colored dog. Always conscious of it, terribly afraid of it, I ended up abandoning the living room and took my reading and napping to the tiniest room in my apartment which, not coincidentally, was the farthest room from the Calder beast.  To avoid crossing its path, I began exiting my apartment through the back door, just in case.  Just in case of what I’m not sure, but since I’m incredibly reasonable, it is better to be safe than sorry.

Arriving home was a different story.  I’d carelessly bounce up the flight of stairs, let the door fly open, flick on the light, remove my coat and shoes, walk thoughtlessly halfway into the living room preoccupied by this or that, and stop dead in my tracks.  There it was.  The sneak attack.  That damn primary-colored snarling animal floating on my wall.  This happened for weeks, until I outsmarted it.  I learned to leave a nightlight on, to peek around the corner before disarming myself of my coat and shoes, just in case.  Just in case of what, I still wasn’t sure.

Gradually, its pounce began losing its punch.  I began exiting through the front door without fear, arriving home without a nightlight.  I napped deeply on the couch after particularly tiresome days, waking without fear.

I’ve since moved, and the Calder dog followed me.  There it hangs in my living room where I nap without hesitation.  I go days without noticing it.  Somehow, its teeth are not so sharp anymore, its eyes with earthly depth, its primal nature quelled.  I miss the terror I once felt of this now tamed creature.  I miss the mystery of such few colors and crude shapes.  I miss the ridiculousness of avoiding the beast.  It was exciting and new and unpredictable then, and because of this, I ask, does everything inevitably become ordinary?

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So Much Guilt, So Little Time

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I think about the box every day.  It gives me unimaginable guilt every day.  Guilt for owning it for twenty years, for trying unsuccessfully to give it purpose, for giving it purpose but not fulfilling the purpose, for trying to hate it, for trying to like it.  I think about it at work, while driving, washing dishes, replenishing my car’s fluids, showering, and walking my dog.  I think about it while running, serving my opponent, quelling boredom, trying to get it all done.  I dream about it, wake up thinking about it, but mostly I try to avoid it, and mostly I try to make it work.  All the while, it nags from behind a closet door, nesting within boxes, begging to finally be what it is supposed to be.  I mean seriously, how long is it going to take?  Its concern is valid.

This thing that should be, but isn’t yet.  The thing that could be, but isn’t.  Arguably, the box is my biggest secret.  No one knows about it, except for you, but all names and places are changed to protect the guilty.  I would die if anyone knew that I were the one who failed miserably at so many half-hearted attempts at nothing.

So there it rests, in that naggy, blamey part of my brain, behind a closet door, nesting within other boxes, filled with something I’m too afraid to take out.

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The Incubation Period

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Twenty years has passed since the heist.  During those twenty years, I moved up and down the New Jersey coastline twelve times, once to an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and back to New Jersey again, which means I’ve packed and unpacked that many times.   Before each move, I lightened the load, truncating all that wasn’t needed or wanted.  The box survived every truncation.

Each time it surfaced, I remember thoroughly examining the box, running my thumb across its smooth silver, inspecting its tiny hinge, and opening its lid to find: nothing.  Relieved that the box still belonged to me after all these years, but annoyed that its purpose refused to be revealed, I packed it away, again and again, until next time and the time after that.  At times, I was annoyed simply because I owned such a useless object: a stolen box that held nothing, incapable of holding anything, that lived two decades packed inside another box that was perfectly capable of fulfilling its life’s purpose of holding things within itself.

This tiny, useless box outlived every box that carried, stored, and protected it.  While each of those boxes served its purpose and quietly, cyclically, turned back into dirt, the silver box incubated within.

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The Box

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I thought this box would come in handy one day.  Handy for what, I had no idea, but handy for something, one day.  Its impractical size is incredibly impractical for holding anything practical.  No latch makes for securing contents questionable, though closure is snug and smooth.  No strap, chain, or loop means that it must be held in a hand or contained within another receptacle.  The box had no purpose, but I had to have it, now, for the future, for something.

I half thought that if it were mine, I would give it purpose.  The other half was seduced by pulling off a major heist.  My heart raced with the idea of sliding the smooth silver metal into my jeans pocket in plain view of the very person who could put me away.  All I needed were guts and a plan.  Sweat shot from my pores and in moments I mapped everyone’s whereabouts and devised a crime so flawless that I surprised even myself.  It had to happen at that very moment or not at all.  I slid the box into my pocket, seamlessly.  I was a thief.  My ears buzzed with terror of this thing burning hot in my jeans pocket.  I made a clean getaway.

There the box sat, in this place and that, never used and collecting years, twenty to be exact.  On January 5, 2012, the box made its grand entrance, its first major role since the teenage mall kiosk caper.  And so it begins…