Last night, I received a package from the island, marked with the return address of my old boyfriend. There is little I love more than receiving a package in the mail. The brown paper wrapping, the inked black letters of my name scribbled on the front, the promise of wonderful little treats from far off places, and my favourite part of all; the feeling of the anticipation of possibility that is often even better than the secrets inside begging to be revealed. For me, at least, what’s actually inside is secondary to child-like love of receiving a mystery-gift.
When I was a kid, during the Christmas season, we would always receive packages wrapped in brown paper from some aunt or other living in South America. They always arrived about a month early, with instructions written on the front, insisting that we “do not open until Christmas.” It hardly made a difference what chocolate-covered candy or little trinkets were hidden inside because the package itself was the real gift. It was a symbol of mystery and possibility, and a source of entertainment for me and my sister, who spent hours sitting under the Christmas tree, taking turns shaking the box and trying to guess what was inside.
So last night, when my roomate barged into my bedroom bearing a box with my name on it, my little heart skipped. I eagerly took it from her and positioned it carefully in my lap. As I ran my fingers along the edges I wondered: What could it be? What could my old friend from Taiwan be sending to me? I picked it up, turned it over, shook it a bit, put it down on my bed, and walked to the other side of the room to size it up from a distance. Could it be something I left behind? Was it something important? Was it something I didn’t even know I couldn’t live without? I paced back and forth a few times before pouncing on it and tearing into the cardboard.
As I ripped open the package, something sharp pierced my finger, and dirt and sand and tiny pebbles spilt out onto my bed and floor. Blood was dripping onto my sheets, and in my confusion I fumbled for the Kleenex box on my nightstand. “What the fuck?” I wondered. Wrapping my finger in a tissue, I emptied the contents of the box to reveal; a t-shirt, a dress, my old wallet containing some Canadian I.D, a set of keys to my parent’s place, various lip balms, my old journal, and a dismantled miniature Zen garden that was given to me as a birthday present.
It seemed that when my old boyfriend had moved out of the apartment that we shared in Taipei, he had very thoughtfully packaged up a few things of mine that he knew were important to me. Unfortunately, the ceramic tray from my Zen garden had smashed to pieces in the mail, shredding my dress, and the Tupperware container full of pebbles and sand from the miniature garden.
What is the point of this little anecdote? You may wonder.
Well, my relationship with this man was very intense, and although we both tried very hard, our efforts always seemed to end in disaster. I loved him very much, but we just couldn’t keep it together, because the results of all of our attempts always fell a bit short, and never quite manifested in that climactic moment of romance where the effort is supposed to pay off.
Sitting in my bed, covered in blood, and dirt and shards of smashed ceramic, I had to laugh. I imagined him addressing the package, extending a gesture of peace from 6000 miles away, in the form of these sentimental possessions I had left in Taiwan, and then I observed the reality of the gesture; smashed and shredded on my bloody bed-spread. The scene was typical of our time together, always struggling to offer each other some profound gesture of love or friendship, and always failing miserably. But this time it was different, because this time I laughed; this time the gesture was not lost in the reality; I sat amidst a beautiful and shattered collage of the past. It was so very poetic, and so very us.