Memoirs: From the box under the bed.
I liked being a mess. The desk that should have been clear so I could do my homework was always besieged with bowls of cereal and spoiled milk, old magazines, and Post-it notes I had forgotten to remember. My floor was a vacuum in itself, eating anything entering my room. It consumed sweaters, stuffed animals, socks, shoes. When I occasionally did laundry, I would dig up clothes I couldn’t even recall purchasing. My shelves overflowed with containers of little odds and ends: hair bands, chapstick, cigarettes, loose mints, coins, earring backings. I couldn’t always see these things, but I knew that they were safe, nestled somewhere on a shelf. Like old friends in a phone book, I figured that someday I would find all the loose strings and tie them together.
One lonely day in May when all of my friends had yet to return from their internships and summer vacations, something inside me began to itch. I tried taking a shower, scrubbing myself with every bodywash and bar of soap I could find. I brushed my hair and my teeth, but didn’t feel any cleaner. I checked my e-mail - empty. I checked my Twitter to see for new mentions and Facebook for new tagged photos, but I had already seen everything.
I went downstairs and found my brother playing video games on his PSP, my sister on the phone, and Brandon watching Spongebob Squarepants – everyone in their right place. I told my sister that something didn’t feel right, and she suggested that for once I should clean my room. The thought itself made me nauseous. I went upstairs to sulk, feeling so overwhelmed that I might as well have been floundering without a boat in the middle of the the Pacific Ocean.
When I opened the door to my bedroom, everything was in its usual cluttered arrangement. A plate of half-eaten pancakes sat on my desk, soggy with syrup from the morning. My bikini hung lifelessly from my doorknob, dripping of pool water. My heavy covers lay crumpled and cold across my bed, molded by the twists and turns of the previous night. Piles of dirty clothes sat unsorted, collecting dust.
I stood in the middle of the cluttered room, breathing in the filthy air that I had become so used to. In the silence of that moment, I began to hear the clock ticking. I became aware of the moldy smell. I noticed that a spider had spun a shimmering line from my lamp to the top of my mirror. I shivered in disgust. I remembered during the holidays how my stuffed animal, Vanilla, had fallen behind my dresser and I hadn’t noticed until I caught the repulsive scent of her fur burning against the lit up cigarette, until it was too late and she had a permanent brown spot.
I suddenly felt sympathy for everything in my room that I had buried, never to be seen again. Lost items I had blocked out for years made their way back into my consciousness: my favorite yellow tank top, the picture of my mom and me on that helicopter ride, my magazine collection.
I had an urge to dive under my bed and uncover everything lurking in the murky depths of dust, and to climb up into the highest corners of my closet and rescue items that had been mingling with the spiders. The innocent piles were growing higher and higher until they were looming monsters before my eyes. They were threatening to swallow me whole. I had to get rid of them. And so I started to clean.
In a box buried under old textbooks, I found a wooden tablet engraved with a message my mom made before she died. It was supposed to be her gift to me for my ninth birthday. I hadn’t thought of her since she died thirteen years ago. I suddenly remembered the thrill of running naked through cold sprinklers with my siblings in the garden, the spicy smell of barbecue mixing with the salty air at the beach house in Paoay, and the distinct feel of her soft malong rubbing warmly against my cheek each time she enveloped me in a hug. I remembered how my mom would read me stories before bedtime.
I sat with this wooden tablet, blocking out the rest of the mess around me. I was in the middle of a storm, but I sat there and studied it until I had memorized every line:
“Rozanna Bianca. My graceful white rose. You are the fairest of all; be strong my darling for not everyone will understand. But remember that God himself is blessing you forever. I love you my darling. I will always be with you in spirit. Happy 9th birthday.”
Tears began to roll down my cheeks again, and the relief was like the sound of heavy rain pounding on a roof.
In that box under my bed, I found a picture of me and my childhood best friend, Nina. She had given this to me before we parted for high school. I traced the green and purple patterned border with my thumb, realizing that I hadn’t spoken to her in years. She reminded of how simple life was. How we would go to her house and make silly music videos and how horrid my haircut was in 3rd grade. She reminded me of how lame we were and how we both liked being in front of the line. She reminded me of how we would ditch piano lessons to play or how silly we were to think that platform shoes were cool. She reminded me that everyone in grade school could dance and sing and that friendship meant being seatmates forever. But we lost touch when I transferred schools in high school; and now she had moved to California after college. I had lost so many precious childhood memories over time, letting them slip away into the tide like grains of sand. It was the kind of conversation you never want to end because for each moment it felt like a bucket collecting droplets of water from a leak.
Under my bed I even found that picture book of Brandon when he was born. I had forgotten how fast time does fly. How he would fit perfectly in my arms wrapped in his baby blue blanket and how it was such a joy hearing his first laugh and noticing that he had deep-set dimples. Five years later, he comes to me with scratches on his knees and clothes covered in dirt from playing with kids from our neighborhood. Five years later, I could barely carry him. But what really caught my attention, though, was my image holding him. I had short hair, barely-there eyebrows, make-up less and fat. I stared at that girl, barely able to recognize this person who had drowned in the mess of my room so many years before. I was so young and naive. I decided to completely reorganize and revamp my room so that all the books, belts, and baskets were in their right place. It was like finding the missing pieces of the puzzle.
The finishing touch was putting together a collage of photos in the past 21 years and hanging it high up on my wall.
After all, it was me I had been searching for.