The Purple Box

This is a piece generated in the Writer’s Studio and a first in a series of poems and flash fiction that will be published on this blog throughout the year. A new year and new goals. Thanks for reading.

There was a time when things held meaning for me as if they kept me together like bone and muscle, and their presence pumped blood into my heart.

I had an art bin, actually, a makeup caboodle filled with watercolors, brushes, calligraphy pens, erasers, charcoals, and professional grade pencils as if this box of supplies rendered me an artist.

For a stretch of time in my life, there were few moments the bin, along with pads of Strathmore heavyweight paper, never left my side, an intimate companion.

Its marbled-purple plastic shell was hip for the times and inside hot pink accordion shelves with teeny compartments designed for cosmetics worked just as well for art supplies and a space underneath the perfect size for sable brushes wide, pointed, angled and flat.

I stole the bin from a discount store in The Valley.

If I come to think of it maybe I had absconded with the brushes from a local stationery store

that had little security but aisles of stuff to fill my bin with a personal supply of adventure in every shape and style.

My artistic endeavors were amateurish renderings of pop culture, record covers, motel floral patterns, silhouettes, calligraphy, dragons, lilies, the white rabbit, Alice, tweedledee and dum, and repeated versions of the Queen of Hearts.

Yet it wasn’t the output that mattered most rather that my stock of supplies was at the ready sharpened, cleaned and arranged by color.

We’d travel the length of California back and forth on I-5 or sometimes Hwy 99 if the mood suited us. I met him on the beach, in winter when the waves crashed from 6 feet into a froth of sandy gyrations.

And the purple bin and my canvas bag of journals were a constant in a time when my life centered around one man and our vagabond ways.

There was a time when dinner was a rest stop vending machine.

When we tucked ourselves to sleep in his little hatchback nestled between the rumble of big rig generators and long-haul drivers who could care less about a couple of near-do-well tweakers who had stayed up for days only to come down in a grassy hamlet with cold metal toilets and rough brown paper towels managed by the State of California and meant for the weary road-tripping family rambling their way to visit grandparents and amusement parks.

But here we were two lost souls, in a kind of tossed asunder love thinking up modern pickpocketing schemes to make a dime.

And so this purple bin of mine had been with me through so much, even tossed out of the car when we quarreled, even made it alive out of a storage unit lockout, even stayed with me as I finally left him behind.

I carried the purple bin with me for over a decade long after the nightmares that woke me up in a sweat diminished to only a few nights a year, each time more faded away. 

Now I was well and my being free from driving aimlessly across my home state from beaches to the high desert.

Yet this purple bin would appear as I moved around from a bay windowed apartment to a studio in the Mission District. I’d unpack it from the back shelf of a closet, only to stow it away again.

I hung onto it like a chest of misdeeds, thinking I’d bring it out for a night of crafting with newfound friends. But I never did brave it.

Until one day I moved into a two bedroom apartment and had to find space for baby blankets and a cradle and a toy chest filled with jumbo legos, and a tiny critter dollhouse, with itsy-bitsy kitchen supplies and even teeny baby carriages and a nursery for the wee critters and I had no more space for the bin.

I opened it one last time to inhale the waxy smell of pencils and dried out markers, stiffened brushes and worn down watercolors, a supply of the best art supplies money never bought.

And I didn’t need to hang on, my attachment had been replaced, it held no space for me to keep amongst the new life I was building.

I did pause when it crashed into the garbage and for a brief second, I wanted to jump in, rescue it, and scoop it up from the trash.

Thoughts flew through my head. Maybe I could use it to make art with my girl, or take up watercoloring, or class on figure drawing.

I could clean out the dust, maybe the supplies could be rectified and reused. Maybe I should pass it on to a friend, or school, or charity.

If I could forget what meant, it could gain a new identity, and not carry the dings of a lost youth.

Instead, I let it rest amongst the rotting edges of a smelly dumpster because things didn’t have a hold on me any longer.

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