“This Is What I’m Thinking at The Container Store” by Jessica Whipple

Reading by the author

There’s a reality where LEGO instructions, crumpled like dollar bills, unfurl to crisp life again in sleek plastic pockets, in binders lining bookshelves.

A basket in my bedroom holds clothes waiting to be re-worn. I gave it a name, even. A wear-again bin. A name makes a thing important. This is the best I can do.

Sometimes it feels like all my problems could be solved if I had places for things. Husband wants a spot for keys. School pickups run on-time when I can locate my sunglasses. A thing is important if it has a place.

I’m terrible at filing. Bills, coupons, invoices. Life creates endless items to be sorted and categorized. When a thing has a place and a name, it can be found again.

I wonder about this: Where do I keep the things I don’t want to possess? Once when I opened the fridge, 15 watts illuminated liminal space: pb & J or mac & cheese? The decision meant nothing. The decision meant everything. For months I struggled to keep my head above its inky depths. Finding a thing again is like remembering.

So I recall this moment often. In my brain there’s a file marked “She Was Overwhelmed” and a subfolder titled “Lunch.” There’s also “Work,” “Disease,” “God,” and others. Like the cardboard box labeled “OCD,” this file is heavy. Taped shut.

But I know where it is: It’s in the basement. On the narrow shoulder of an overpass. At the end of 2008. The middle of 2010. My fertile 2015.

These were the times I relinquished my phone, keys, wallet before passing through the psych ER’s metal detector. I can find this tangle of hard questions, shameful confessions, when I need it. I revisit the prayers, apologies, repeated like a leaky faucet, droplets always tracing the same path. Remembering is a way of being ready for next time.

I strive for actual organization, but what I really want is tidy thoughts. Truth and impossibility in a mutually-exclusive Venn diagram. I can live with a messy toy chest, closet, and junk drawer. When the pipes burst, I don’t need an acrylic office caddy. Give me a bucket to catch the flow.

Jessica Whipple is a writer for adults and children. Her poetry has been published by One Art, Nurture, Ekstasis, Rathalla Review, Stanchion, and Green Ink Poetry, with some forthcoming in Door Is a Jar. Her debut picture book Enough Is… will be published spring 2023 by Tilbury House, and another titled I Think I Think A Lot from Free Spirit Publishing is forthcoming that same fall. To see more of her work, visit AuthorJessicaWhipple.com or follow her on Twitter @JessicaWhippl17.

Image: “east village, obvs” by Daniel Nester

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