The majority of The Box is dedicated to my best relationship: a get-well-soon doll, a Nintendo 64 controller, and a particularly difficult pair of earrings. Our paper trail was enormous. There are handwritten notes scribbled on napkins, a receipt where she first wrote I love you, birthday cards, restaurant menus, polaroids, and other evidence of a life lived together. She wrote me a letter a few weeks after we broke up. She was angry and I was angry and I needed time, but I took too much time because days turned into weeks turned into months turned into years. I regret that I never responded, but I didn’t know what else to say. I still don’t.
My longest and most difficult love is woefully underrepresented because of the nature of our time together. I have a bundle of emails that I needed to delete but wanted to remember, so I printed them out and then wiped them from my inbox in an effort to stop myself from spending my days endlessly re-reading them on my phone. Words were her weapon: She would say a lot, then she would say a little. She would say the most when she said nothing at all. That relationship ended (for real this time) just over a year ago, but that past feels too recent and too raw to tackle, so the emails stay folded and the letters remain tucked in their envelopes–for now.
Time moves strangely in COVID. My perception is warped, and yesteryear feels as close to today as tomorrow does. This trip to The Box was free of the distractions that usually accompany a breakup (a weekend away, a spontaneous encounter). Instead, I sought a fresh start to the year with a closet cleanup-turned-apartment overhaul. Looking through The Box was a bit like trying on my old clothes, fond memories from the past that do not serve me in the present.
I don’t open The Box every day, nor do I even think about it very often, but I would be devastated if it didn’t exist. When I re-read these letters I am transported to past versions of myself, and I get to remember who I was when I first received them. Revisiting old love is complicated: it is sad, beautiful, funny, and sometimes even embarrassing.
The best part about The Box? It is not Pandora’s Box, it’s my Box. After I finish looking, I get to put the lid back on and stash it away for future me.