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Compartmentalizing (or: Organizing Your Feelings For Dummies)

Originally Posted: 2017

Compartment #1: The Junk Drawer

This is the compartment for all of your random thoughts, stuck with paper clips and clothed in candy wrappers. The thoughts you always seem to find when you’re looking for something else, but if you call upon the thoughts themselves, all you will find are old post-its and unopened bills. You keep meaning to look through the junk drawer, to set it straight once and for all… but then you see the cluster of pencil shavings and sharpies, sticky from spilled beer, and think… maybe tomorrow.

Compartment #2: The Filing Cabinet

Ah, yes. The seductive smell of folders, crisp and clean. Where OCD can sigh a breath of sweet relief. These are the things that rotate through your mind on a wheel during the day, the month, the year… clicking away those basic tasks that are filtered in black and white, that don’t require much investment at the bank. Fill the tank, buy the eggs, check the weather. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Compartment #3: The Toy Chest

The place you want to frolic. Dive into an endless cave of cotton-stuffed pillows shaped like creatures that, in reality, are less inclined to cuddle you. Oh, but this is not reality! The monsters are not welcome here. You keep the key to this chest tucked into the muscle of your heart, to carefully retrieve when the outside world isn’t quite in line with your storybook picture. Here are the sweet dreams, the long walks, the first cup of coffee. Here are the nights spent with her hand beneath your cheek, the mornings where the sun is the only alarm that wakes you. Here are the snow days and pay days and cheat days and days worth reliving. Here are your senses free to roam and dance naked on the beach.

Compartment #4: The Attic

Store the things here that mattered yesterday. This is the palace of sentimentality. Let them gather dust until you have a random Sunday where the secret masochism that lies in the minds of all human beings tugs at your brainwaves and demands a trip down crooked Memory Lane. Here, the cobwebs string together construction paper confrontations to photographs gone yellow with their age, while the laughter of old lovers skitters across the floorboards, just out of reach. Old You is a ghost that lurks in the shadows; the You that was before. A You so distant in time that you can’t quite make out her shape enough to call her your own. This is Old You’s sanctuary. You feel her tap you on the shoulder, draped in… did You really wear that once? Visiting the attic is necessary now and then. But don’t linger too long without stepping out for some air; the attic is crowded and stale, and the broken clocks may bury you.

Compartment #5: The Basement

The land without windows. This is where you shove those things you want to have no place for; the items from a tag sale that went un-bought because who would have thought to make something like that anyways? For the most part, you forget about the things you stack carelessly down there where the light can rarely find them. Here is the quilt, patched together from your moments of shame, your irrational jealousies; your selfish thoughts and impulsive habits. Let the bugs tear it thread by thread if they like, for you’d rather it be a pile of unwoven fabric. Why keep the embarrassments knit tightly together when out-of-sight-out-of-minds can shred them to bits? Anything you don’t want… but can’t seem to find the trash for, you put it in the basement.

Compartment #6: Under The Bed

Those dirty little secrets. Sinfully delicious. Tucked away with care where decency won’t go looking. Here sleeps every kinky fantasy, every rope-burned wrist and purple hickey, every moan and groan and sigh. All that longing, all that hot, wet desire bubbles in a warm red glow that pulses and spreads, touching the edge of your bedspread with a delicate finger. Teasing you, enticing you. Sometimes the haze will reach out in the middle of the night and spread your legs. Sometimes it swirls in colors over your skin, making goosebumps pop across your arms and stealing your breath. There, under your bed, are your most vivid orgasms. Your favorite lovers. The magazine pictures ripped and folded, and folded again, of faces that can ignite you. Here is your internet history. Perfume bottles lined up in a row, sealed shut with a jewel to hold those scents that make the blood rush downward. Pages 46, and 33, and 279. Handcuffs and lipstick stains. Your rawness, passionately whispering in your ear until you cannot, or will not, ignore it.

Compartment #7: The Lock Box

The cage for the little, rabid beast that’s followed you and grown with you for all your life. Here is your tiny monster. His eyes are bloodshot and he’s always tired. He doesn’t have a sense of time or place; no morality, no manners… He wants to curl into your lap and make you forget that he is ugly. He is dangerous. And he will stay, if you let him. He will find a home in your lap and nuzzle so deep with his rough fur your skin will burn and bleed. If you let your guard down, his claw may sharpen and knick the corner of your eye. The monster will tug on your sleeve as you walk out the door, begging you take it with you, even if it must be on a leash. But do not let the whimpering tempt you; he will find a way to chew off his leash and run rampant through the streets, and you will have to chase him. When you finally catch him, if you do, you are exhausted. Exhausted enough to lie down on the sidewalk and find sleep against the concrete. Keep the monster in his cage, and every day, remember to check the locks.

Compartment #8: The Jewelry Chest

It’s remarkable how much memory an earring can hold. You can pull out a silver bangle and see heaven in her eyes. Here are the sparkly trinkets that weigh too much; the overwhelming treasures that come at such a cost. Some were given to you, some you bought, and some you tried to give away. Some you stole, because they were so pretty and held such a shine that you couldn’t bare to live all your life without touching them. Each stone and golden braid inside the chest is precious, though some were more expensive than the others. It is deep, this chest; so deep and rich in color, and heavy. So vibrant and attractive, catching flecks of light off the moon and shooting them straight into your being. This is the tangled web of metal love.

Compartment #9: The Backpack

This is the compartment you keep with you. Survival 101. This is a jungle, and you never know when you will need a first aid kid, a granola bar, or a compass. A tiger may be lurking underneath a canopy of green. At any moment, a tire in your feet may roll through glass and lose its air. You have this to be ready. You will find in it a flashlight for a sudden darkness, a knife to hack through tangled vines and bush, a book to reference when you’re not sure if the snake is full of venom. The map in there is hard to read, but you can try, and its a comfort just to keep it. You can add to your backpack all day long, but be sure you sort its contents before you rest your head. Throw out what you don’t need, and catalogue the rest. Leave room for the unexpected. There is only so much you can carry.

Compartment #10: The Music Box

Here is a dancer, twirling in a skirt of painted tool and pink diamonds. Here is your heart, spun on a string of music. The magic that no-one can name. Twist the small brass key and look into the pearl-encrusted mirror to see the purest form of you. These are the spotlights, the sonnets, the songs. The smell of cosmic possibility. The crystal ball. Here is the truth that can set your wild spirit free. This is the most important compartment you are keeping. Hold onto it tight, and if ever you forget what you are made of, open it, my darling, and listen to your song.