Cleaning is such a dreadful task. Overbearing. Leering over your shoulder, pushing you to clean clean clean. Ok, so not always, but sometimes.


I can keep my room clean. Tidy. Bed made, sheets tucked, pillows fluffed and placed like my mother wants them to be. No t-shirts or sweaters thrown over my bed, sliding down onto the floor. No more jeans or sweatpants on the desk chair. No socks littering the floor, their other pairs nowhere in sight. No candy wrappers scattered near the trash can. The stash of Twix and Mars bars hidden in a box in the side table. I finished all the KitKat.


The old, plastic water bottle wasting away on my desk, now in the trash. Makeup brushes all neatly placed in the fancy department store centerpiece I use as a holder. Paint stains wiped off the table. The cactus and Aloe I got from a trip to the greenhouse, sitting on the window sill. Phone charger plugged in. Perfumes all lined up across the dresser. My secret supply of snacks stored away in the drawer under my desk. Notebooks stacked on the left corner. Pencils and pens laid out on the right, laptop in the middle.


Everything is in its place. Perfectly organized so I can see it, reach it, use it.


Flawless. Simple. Organized. Like me. Although little do they know, it’s an illusion. All neat and tidy, it hides what you can’t see. Kept away so that all that there is, is a perfect image, while a tornado brews inside. It’s ugly. And sometimes, even I don’t want to see it.


My room might be clean but my closet, on the other hand, is another story. It’s a mess. We don’t talk about it.


There are shoes haphazardly thrown across the floor, laces knotted together. Heels and sneakers and flip flops. Clothes stuffed inside, falling off hangers and laying in piles on the floor. The burgundy dress that I just had to buy but have nowhere to wear it, hung up and forgotten. Sweatshirts stolen from my brother. They barely fit me but it’s alright, they’re “oversized”. Unfinished canvases shoved inside, facing the wall, ashamed to be seen. And the juice stain that was always there. I could never get rid of it. No concoction of Pine-Sol, Lysol, or detergent could make it go away.


There’s a box hidden deep inside my closet. A shoebox. A seemingly innocent box. Plain cardboard with faded reds and blues. Maybe it was from Zellers, I had forgotten. In this closet full of clutter and turmoil, the box was the one thing that was calm. But it was my own Pandora’s Box. Instead of misery, it kept memories tucked away.


A four-by-two cardstock ticket to a concert I would never go to.


A baby blue ribbon tied around a hickory twig. Memories of laughter and dancing and bonfires float in my head. 


A beaded bracelet given to me by a boy whose name I had forgotten. Multiple hues of blue as plentiful as the sea, bottled up inside the glass beads.


The necklace my fifth grade best friend lent me.


The broken ink pen my father taught me how to use.


The corner of a science fair poster. I’d won first place.


Black laces I was dared to steal from the roller skate rink ‘round the corner in eighth grade. It closed down years ago.


A polaroid of the cake at my sister’s wedding. A single drop of coffee stained the back.


A daffodil pressed between pieces of clear tape. Back then, I didn’t know you could actually laminate things and I didn’t want the flower to be forgotten between the pages of some diary I would never use.


A pin from the annual high school camping trip, it’s image long faded away. Stolen kisses, late night parties, blazing fireplaces and fluffy blankets.


My box is filled with lost moments. Memories left behind. Built with love, grief hidden in the corners.


Memories. How bittersweet. Sometimes they’re better off forgotten. Sometimes they’re not. Remembering them makes regret and sadness bloom inside me. It doesn’t have to be a gloomy, rainy day: my heart hurts when the sun shines as well.


But when I look at them, remember them, they play inside my head like continuous reels of a movie. Happiness and content bubble inside me, swaying with silent laughter that rocks my body as I brush away the tears that fall.

Photo: Karolina Grabowska on