On a drizzly Thursday afternoon Renee dutifully helped me pack my things into big brown boxes, starting with the closet, then the bookshelf, then the desk littered with loose paper and pens that no longer wrote, gum wrappers, magazine clippings, odds and ends. On my nightstand there were novels I hadn’t read yet, and a bronze jewelry box with my parents’ wedding rings, and a hairbrush already painstakingly cleaned of stray strands. Renee said very little; all week she’d been kind to me, tiptoeing around my feelings, sensitive and maternal. Her compassion suffocated me. I had always thought it would strengthen me.
“Do you remember when I threw a raw egg in your face?” I asked, attempting to turn the somber mood into something else, something that didn’t resemble a funeral or the aftermath of a catastrophe. “Remember?” I asked again. She probably did, because it wasn’t that long ago. It was in the middle of a Monopoly game, and she had been asking for it, trash-talking and cheating all afternoon. The egg was for a science class experiment—an infant dummy. We had to feed it, bathe it, watch over it, change its diaper, rock it to sleep. We had to make sure it didn’t break, didn’t get lost. We had to keep it safe. The point was to eventually reach the conclusion that we weren’t ready for babies of our own yet, which most of us already knew anyway. We were twelve; it wasn’t like any of us seriously considered otherwise. When the yolk ran down Renee’s neck and arms like slime oozing out of a monster’s skin, she was the first to laugh. I followed suit. I remembered how nice it felt to know that we were both forgiven.
We filled the boxes quickly with my things. In the corner of the room there was a black garbage bag overflowing with everything I no longer wanted or needed, everything my life could no longer accommodate. Every few minutes Renee tossed something in wordlessly. I liked that she didn’t have to ask me whether or not something was rubbish. She knew me well enough. Her hair hung down her back in a haphazard braid as she stacked my sweaters systematically, folding the arms inward first, then outward, then halving the body horizontally. She arranged them by color, and at some point I wanted to ask when and why a privileged girl like her learned how to do anything remotely domesticated. When she was done with the sweaters, she took my dresses off their hangers one by one, their soft fabric gliding over her small, smooth hands. In the empty closet the bare hangers looked forlorn, as if they had suddenly been stripped of value, as if they were waiting for someone that would never come. When we were almost finished, I looked around the room. With nothing in place save for the furniture, it seemed unfamiliar to me; already it was beginning to feel like it wasn’t mine. Soon it would be reduced to a place in my mind I would explore only when nostalgia hits, lumped in with stories of my childhood. There was an awful lot of space, space everywhere—underneath the bed, behind the door, beside the window, inside the drawers, next to the bed. I wondered why I ever required that much.