once, i built a shelf.
it was a wonky, shoddy-looking thing, hanging crookedly from the wall, haphazardly suspended by a combination of metal pieces and some thin rope harness. i recognized this even as i admired my handiwork, this first little achievement.
the first time i placed an item on it, it toppled dangerously, swaying not unlike a swing in a breeze. a second book later, the rope was snapping and the plank of wood hit the floor.
after that i admitted defeat, sulking the whole time, and hired someone to do it properly. the shelf was resurrected with tools, so secure it barely faltered under the weight of heavy encyclopedias.
i cleared the books when they began gathering dust, and the shelf remained bare for several months. when you moved in, i liberated a random figurine from you – just a keepsake. for the first time, i was grateful that the room was tiny, barely more than a cupboard, and that people never really troubled to look into it when they were around. most of the time, it was just a little storage cupboard with a few things shoved in; a junk cupboard, even.
then you left, and someone else moved in, took your place. i began repeating the cycle every few months, always liberating some little figure and keeping a tiny history of it. your replacements came and went, almost faster than i could track, and the items were a way to remember who was who. (it always was easier to do this. every year went by faster, my memory got more and more cluttered with hundreds of people, concurrent with the clutter gathering on the shelf)
one day the shelf was packed with everything i was trying to fit into place, not quite overflowing. i swiped it clear and wrote down a hundred years’ worth of memory. notebooks became the new memory habit, filling up a new one every second year and stashing away the oldest in storage units. i learned from a couple centuries’ worth of people, wrote them down and left their stories in a box.
that year i drilled into place new shelves, kept the apartment in yet another new name and created the newest stories, an ever-extended file on the latest-model computer.
that year i wiped the shelves clean, dumped the books to decompose elsewhere –
packed a bag and left.