To Toss or to Hoard?

fourth year mk manoylov

 photo by emily haynie

photo by emily haynie

Let me preface: I don’t actually read other people’s mail in the sense that I rip open the letter and devour its contents. The type of mail sent to my apartment are advertisements with the message written all over the letter’s body, makin it impossible not to read.

Besides, I get a lot of mail that’s not mine. Fun fact: the apartment I live in now was built in the 1950’s for married University of Georgia students. Lots of people have lived in my apartment throughout the years, and, well, to put it nicely, my apartment feels lived in. It has the wear and tear of hundreds of hands scrubbing the sink, opening and closing doors. My apartment certainly smells lived in.

And I am another body who has called that space a home, scrubbing the sink with my hands, opening and closing the door with my hands. Contributing to the smells in all the ways a human can (I cook with a lot of garlic okay).

The people before me did that too. It’s weird to think of other people sleeping in the room where I now sleep, but that’s the history of my apartment. People have come and gone, a revolving door of college students or graduated workers contributing to society. But my housed them, warmed them at night and kept the rain off their heads. And the black mailbox, stuck proudly to the wall outside the front door, was the conduit for the outside world to slip their message into this sacred home space.

So here I am now, getting to piece together what the lives of the previous inhabitants were like based off the unforwarded mail I still get. I can’t tell much from the standard fast food chain mail, as everyone seems to get those--but the advertisements for baby clothes, the magazine for computational theorems, the letters about receiving senior benefits--now, they were definitely for the people who are no longer at my apartment. This forgotten mail is a bread crumb version of a fossil record.

For some reason, I can never throw it away on the spot. I keep the advertisements and magazines and letters on my coffee table as if I’m waiting for the correct recipient to come and get them. I know it’s dumb. A person won’t come back to their old address just to pick up something they’d throw away anyway-- but it’s still a part of their life, even if they don’t want it. That’s a don’t-throw-it-out-quite-yet kind of special.

But, eventually, I do throw out the mail. It’s kinda weird if you keep hoarding it, so I discard them gently in my trashcan. I’m reminded that there has been a collection of lives imprinted on my walls, and I’m adding one more tally mark with mine.