There are five men. It feels like a battallion.
The sounds. The tape coming off the roll makes a noise like skin being ripped from flesh. The beating of cardboard boxes as they’re set up is like drums against my bones. The drill runs constantly, pulling the screws from the walls, the artwork shunted aside.
The intricate wall hangings from Pakistan fall with silent screams. I don’t want them in boxes! It’s like shutting up a person alive in a coffin! They have souls, these tapestries, the fingers of the women who stitched them for weeks and weeks. They should never ever be in the dark.
I rescue one and sneak it into the pile for shipment to Dili.
And the books – it feels worse than burning them. For all they mean to me, and to Tom – our intellectual life, and our life together. After only a year to breathe, again they will be in storage.
A few days ago I found myself thinking that I would rather just throw it all out the window than to see my things all made prisoners once more. It seems better to have nothing than to go through this process of assembly and disassembly over and over again.
The speed at which the movers pack terrifies me. It is demonic. They work like robots – efficient, unsmiling, at a steady pace – but fast, so fast. In a little more than two days, they will take apart an apartment that took us months to get into shape, to make a real home.
At first I enjoyed it. They are so smooth and professional. It was kind of a pleasure to watch them work, as it always is to see craftsmen who move with complete confidence and competence.
They custom-make boxes around objects: The dining chairs, mirror, tables, all are wrapped in paper and then put in boxes which are cut and shaped to fit them exactly. As they go, everything is marked with a colored label for the room it goes into. The crew leader, Abe (pronounced Ah-bay), keeps an inventory of the contents of the boxes.
At noon Abe says to me, “Can we do the kitchen?”
I thought that the kitchen and my office would for sure be the last – meaning, tomorrow. They are supposed to be able to pack 20 cubic meters in a day, and today was first the shipment to Timor – 7 CBMs – plus the living room, halls, Tom’s office, our bedroom (except the bed). I figured that was plenty to keep them busy for one day.
But no! they are zipping through it, and yet for some reason not doing the stuff for shipment.
At 12:50 the crew stops for lunch and sits quietly in the guest bedroom to eat. This also throws me – but, reallly, why did I think they would leave for their break? Where did I think they would go – to a restaurant? These guys probably make $4 a hour. Sometimes I am so middle-class that I make myself laugh.
By then they have finished the dining room, both hallways, and parts of Tom’s office. Abe has promised to let me know by tomorrow whether the shipment has fit into the crate as estimated, when the stuff gets to the warehouse.
I am prepared either way – to take stuff out, or to put more stuff in.
It’s just stuff. It’s just stuff. It comes and goes, and someday dissolves. Sometimes you can put it back together, and sometimes you can’t.
But how to re-assemble a life?
You have to create a new one, over and over, every single day, no matter where your furniture is.