from "The Box"
My father-in-law—as I think of him, though he died of complications from AIDS two weeks before our wedding—liked to keep things, and when we moved into his house in Portland, Oregon to sift through the things of his life, we found out just what he deemed worthy of keeping. Behind the back door stood a tower of egg cartons, floor to ceiling nearly, snuggly cupped together. On the back of the kitchen stove sat a can of questionable fatty drippings. The yard held an accumulation of things his neighbors and friends didn’t want—railroad ties, broken cement, old bricks. In the basement on the workbench, a jar of instrument grade mercury, a precipitate of his years as a chemist. He believed very firmly in recycling, even if reuse meant simply saving something from being thrown out by storing it in his house or on his tiny lot. Clearly some of the things we discovered, he’d meant or hoped to use, to continue to use, but for us, these things had no use and thus needed a new home, or at least, a box in which to be kept. Some people keep things and some throw things away.
The foot-and-a-half long pink rubber two-ended dildo we found in the bedroom was a problem. We had a shoebox full of similar things—cock rings and mysterious balls, smaller penetrating items; we’d labeled it with permanent marker, “Sex Toys.” But the dildo needed to be folded in half to fit and wouldn’t sit still, insisted on popping open the lid like Jack in his uncomfortable box. The box made its contents easier to handle, but we weren’t really sure where to go from there, weren’t really sure why we’d put these things in a box, except that in grief, there’s already enough to get rid of, so it ended up in the basement, the destiny of all boxes, inside another box.