Moving books

In the course of a recent move, I realized I owned one bed sheet, part of the care/panic package A sent over after I moved to Katips with one backpack three years ago. Also: one pillow. Two blankets (one an inabel, from C). Two towels. One bowl, a favorite, smuggled from the house. Two plates (from the same care package). One salad bowl. One wine glass (there were two, briefly, but one broke while being washed, like the other glass from [a different] A, w/c broke the night after the elections). Two mugs. One pair of chopsticks (from E, pasalubong from Japan). Two peelers. One knife. Two can openers. One bread knife (from the pâté that L sent one Christmas). A sauce pan and a wok. A chopping board. Two kettlebells. One yoga mat. Two black-out curtains. A weighing scale. Clothes? Just enough to last a couple of weeks’ worth of classes, after which I’d haul everything to the laundry place and the unit is practically bereft of fabric.

I was building, I think now, a life not so much of deliberate austerity or Konmari minimalism but just instinctive transience, a little life, premised on here-and-now need. There’s nothing like moving to physicalize one’s being–what has accumulated unnoticed like grass or lichen–for instance in the countless tricycle trips between the old and new, during w/c things assert themselves in terms of mass and weight and their cumbersome shapes (a neck massager, a blowdryer, a Marx poster, back issues of Kule, from M’s sister). On the other hand, I realized I had no chairs, no stove or rice cooker, no fan, no desk, no shelves, no hamper, no mirror, no broom, much less a bed or a fridge or a couch. I do own, sort of against my will, a tiny window unit that I bought when the old one broke, and a Breville Bambino Plus, from a strange, undeserved x-deal in exchange for a couple of TikTok videos.

Then there are the books. For the better part of the past couple of years, I had been trying to reduce the books around me precisely in anticipation of the inevitable move. Books as the turtle shell that I dreaded lugging around (friends moving with their entire libraries as a cautionary tale). The books at B are apart from those at home, but over the past three years they came to include the books from my Ateneo cubicle that I had left at V’s office before I left for PhD and the books from the aforesaid PhD. I managed to sell some books, but I realized I had neither the patience nor willingness to continue doing so. A vast majority I just gave away, to friends like A and V during the lockdowns, the measly poetry pile to M, to a few students, and as freebies alongside orders of my own books (‘What do you like to read? Just take care of shipping’). A few days before the move, I gave O literally 30 or so books, everything that could fit in his hiker’s backpack (in exchange I got five giant dalanghita, and he and A helped me move the AC and other heavy stuff to the new building).

Something changed after I saw the books in the built-in, newly painted shelves of the new place. I felt a strange, impractical desire to keep them. That maybe half of the books are unread or unfinished tells me this means that I am leaving space for a future in which I will have the time and stillness to read through the pile. That I am imagining a future. The books look so beautiful, still on the shelves.

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