In high school I used to have a fairly serious drug problem. Like most kids in the suburbs I was stifled by the anxiety of Ivy League schools, overloaded by extra curricular activities and a family in the middle of divorce trying to keep face. After loads of anxiety attacks, the most obvious answer was to join the ranks of the overmedicated suburban youth, so I began taking Klonopin. For those who don’t know, it is a pretty heavy duty sedative that knocks you out when you are panicking. For those who do it recreationally they call it “clowning” because it make you feel like you have big clown feet. While I was not doing it recreationally it is an incredibly addictive drug and without really realizing it I had become dependent on it.
With more therapy and time I weaned myself off of it but I kept about 4 or 5 pills in this box for at least 8 years. Never with the intent of using, but always with the intent of soothing a craving I knew I couldn’t sate. A few years ago I finally flushed the pills on a whim, it felt good, but I have not been able to let go of the box. It is a token of a morbid time with a cautionary story inscribed in it. But it is time to let go…I have kept this pillbox trapped in a sick memory for some years now and it is time for it to be liberated!
— hand delivered in New York City
What struck me about this object was not the emotional quality of its accompanying backstory. Nor was it its appealing aesthetic value. What struck me about it was what it seemed to say about memory and, perhaps surprisingly, use value. I have all kind of objects, trinkets and keepsakes in my possession and I would find it difficult to part with them. Most of them have long since outgrown their use value and, strictly speaking, I don’t need them anymore. Still, it is my irrational assumption that they have memories and that they have a consciousness that is in many ways an integral part of my own. When I was a child, I once ran all the way down the gangway of a plane after disembarking because I had left the last piece of chewing gum back at my seat. I had to get it back, because I was worried it would be lonely if I didn’t. Needless to say, this somewhat impractical mentality often prohibits me from giving things up. I’m not a hoarder, but I have a very cluttery kind of superstition.
The previous owner of this pill box held onto it even after its use value was no longer in play. They kept it around as an object of commemoration, a reminder of a vexed and troublesome past (gleaned only from what I read in the exchange story). I think that this person, like me, sees something in the object that makes it more than just pale paint and tin. So that makes this an adoption on equal terms : two people who respect the memories that objects have and the memories they spark.
The twist in the tale here is the re-functioning of the object. It is no longer going to be used for the same purpose (in the sprit of full disclosure, I will eventually pass it on to a dear friend in order to continue the chain and to perhaps break my possessive habit). The object contains something else now, literally and metaphorically, and even as I look at it, I can see a change. The academic in me want to ask a serious of tedious questions : if you change its function, do you change the object? Do objects remember? Is what is ‘inside’ really what counts, as we are always so tiresomely told? However, when I’m freed of all that, I simply enjoy putting another memory inside this tiny trinket.