Everything, in the end, comes down to boxes. That’s what a life amounts to: a bunch of shit in boxes. Things you still can’t bring yourself to part with, for whatever reason. Sometimes it has to do with sentimental value, and other times, it relates to the perpetual lie we tell ourselves about “self-improvement.” You can’t get rid of that “vintage” Thighmaster because you swear, one day, you’re going to use it to lose weight. And no, you can’t get rid of that crockpot someone happened to give you long ago as a non sequitur gift. You have to keep it, because you might improve your cooking skills sooner or later…
But it will invariably be later—always later. Until later turns into never and then never becomes a result of your death. So it is that we spend our whole lives carting ultimately useless shit from one domicile to another, insisting that we need these items in order to “function.”
That had long been the case for Ben, who, at thirty-six, had amassed quite a lot of… “bric-a-brac.” Especially “for a man.” For, according to most hetero males, it was women who had the tendency toward acquiring too many “frivolous ditties.” With their clothes and their shoes and their whore’s maquillage. That, indeed, is the very reason behind why Ben claimed to break up with so many women. Kicking them out before they “officially” moved in by way of insisting that they “just had very different lifestyle preferences.”
While Ben tried to pass himself off as the ascetic person in the relationship, it seemed there was little difference made in the look of his modestly-sized one-bedroom apartment once his girlfriend du moment took her paltry amount of possessions and left at his rather crude behest. Naturally, he always “pulled the plug” after getting one last fuck out of the “broad” in question. He was even “generous enough” to lie next to her for several minutes whilst sharing a post-coital cigarette before “gently” breaking the news. It usually went something like, “[Insert girl’s name here], I know we’ve been getting a bit serious lately, and that’s part of the reason why you’ve decided to bring so many… personal effects over here, but it’s starting to make me feel really claustrophobic and I rather think it would be for the best if we broke it off now before our aesthetic values clash. You’re clearly someone who’s perfectly fine being surrounded by her own clutter. Like a pig in shit, if you’ll excuse the expression.”
Somewhere around the word “claustrophobic,” the erstwhile girlfriend would have usually gotten up to start putting her clothes on in an angered huff. Then, by the end of his little “heart-to-heart” a.k.a. kiss-off (or fuck-off, if you prefer), she would have begun to gather her one or two (three, at the most) items from the bathroom—having left something like a toothbrush and a hair dryer in there for her minimal convenience. For you see, every woman is “subconsciously” aware that men are quite skittish about their so-called “personal space” being “invaded.” And although Claire—that was “the latest one’s” name—had been so careful to “tread lightly” with Ben, it was evident she overstepped her bounds with the addition of a hairbrush placed discreetly in the middle drawer of his bathroom dresser. She had even shoved it all the way to the back, into the drawer’s dark recesses, so that he might not notice. But Ben noticed. Everything all the time. His mind was something like Robocop’s micro-binocular focus system, homing in on anything that was out of place or otherwise “off.” And that brush of Claire’s was very much off. He could detect its presence almost immediately by the errant blonde hairs she had failed to clean out of it bursting forth from the back of the drawer.
“Disgusting,” he muttered to himself as he removed the “ephemera” from the area as though it were biohazardous. He then placed it into a plastic bag and threw it in the trash. Claire, noticing it was missing the next time she came over, also knew she could not say anything about it because it would draw attention to “the conversation” about her possessions “overrunning” his apartment in the first place. Although Claire didn’t want to believe Ben would be so psychotic as to throw her rather invaluable grooming tool away, she also couldn’t deny the extent of his OCD when it came to “maintaining order.” And that it would be entirely on-brand for him to do something so inconsiderate as a consequence.
In fact, it didn’t take any girlfriend of his long to learn that he had a favorite—and very infantilizing—platitude to live by: “Everything in its right place.” Some of the women from his romantic past had tried to tell themselves this was a “charming” quirk that surely couldn’t endure once she had fully “weaseled” her way into his heart. Not so. If anything, he only became more intolerant over time, as he saw fit to lower his “mask” entirely. Often times, to be sure, Ben didn’t even need to bother breaking up with his various girlfriends. Plenty were content to heed the red flags all on their own. Except the “new one” who had been holding fast. And it seemed, no matter what Ben did or how brutishly he treated her, she was unfazed.
Maybe that’s how he found himself putting all his shit into boxes so that he could move, yet again. Only this time, it would be for the purpose of moving in with Eloise. Yes, he admitted her name vexed him slightly as well, but what’s in a name when the pussy’s that accommodating? He tried to remind himself of this when, only days after moving in with one another, he saw that Eloise had made no attempt to unpack her boxes, while Ben had swiftly and efficiently emptied his entire arsenal, disposing of the gutted cardboard right afterward.
So irritated by the sight of these boxes overrunning the space was Ben that he even offered to unpack for Eloise. But she was adamant that she wanted to do it herself. That she had her “particular ways,” just as Ben did, and shouldn’t she be allowed the same courtesy to do things in her specific manner? Yet when another whole week passed without any indication that Eloise might soon be unloading the contents of these boxes, Ben couldn’t stand it any longer. And he comprehended that he had, once more, made a grave error. He laughed to himself at that little play on words as he stuffed Eloise’s severed body parts into different boxes—with her seemingly infinite number of “effects” still stored within them, of course—and began the cumbersome process of taking each box, containing each carefully-nestled-within-her-possessions body part, down to the dumpster.
Ben was aware he was giving new meaning to the phrase “treating women disposably” (and no, it certainly wasn’t his first time performing the suddenly botched act of “moving in together”), but what could he do? Eloise, like all the girlfriends before her, had failed the true test. She was a slob. She could not be bothered to clean up her area in a timely fashion, content to just let the boxes sit there ad infinitum, it appeared. How hard was it, really? Ben asked himself after each instance when he had taken the gamble on moving in with some “dame,” knowing full well he would soon be depositing her into her own boxes anyway to make the space for himself and his possessions that he deserved.
Like all the others, she was going to end up in a box one way or another, as everyone does at some point. Sure, the “vessel” might not always be a box, but, whether urn or crypt, the general concept is the same. Just as a human life can be distilled down to their useless shit in boxes, so, too, is an actual human distilled into a box when it’s all over.