Four Things I Couldn't Throw Away

We took one. We left the other. We made sure it smelled of us.

Four Things I Couldn't Throw Away
Photo by Eric Parks / Unsplash
[A shed is] where you store things you cannot quite throw away. Like the attic, it’s a place where toys, tools, outgrown clothes and records tend to congregate.
—Cornelia Parker

Item 22 — a nice pair of socks with one hole in them

They aren’t particularly special socks.  I got them from Next.  Next do a good sock.  I don’t think I’m spending a disproportionate amount on socks when I shop there.  But they’re pretty thick and last a while.  These didn’t. Or, at least, one of the pair didn’t. There’s a penny-sized hole where the right big toe goes.  I took my boots off one day to see it poking out.  I knew that they needed putting in the bin, but I hadn’t had them long enough for that.  I put them in the laundry instead.  Occasionally I come across them in my wardrobe.  I put them on, then remember.
I put them in the laundry basket and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Item 392 — Wireless earphones that annoyed me while running

I blamed my failure on them.  During a long run they kept slipping and pulling on my right ear.  I’d stop and adjust them, swearing sweatily.  The rage I felt towards them was the rage of basic human failure, like when one keeps biting chunks out of one’s lower inside lip while eating.  I gave them a few goes, swapping the eartips, fiddling with the fixtures, but they still annoyed me.  All the runs I had with them were bad, and it was their fault.  I would not be told otherwise.  I would limp home, the accursed things dangling from a clenched sweaty fist, and I would tell myself a very specific story of blameless failure.

Item 83 — Assorted birthday cards

You shall know them by their handwriting.
My mother’s careful cursive, the ECG readout of my father’s.  My brother’s sloppy scrawl, mad and slanting, like drunken improv comedy.  The meticulous little circles of my dyslexic partner, with her rewrites and crossings-out.  Some handwriting is kinetic, dynamic.  My father’s means business; it is the kind that summons you into the office to explain yourself.  All caps.  It’d shame him to write even one lower case letter.  Unthinkable womanliness!  My mother’s handwriting lies flat and soft, black biro made subtle sigh, somehow.
What things do they say, these cards?  What revelations do they hold?
I don’t remember.  I don’t look at them.  I find them, now and again, smushed into drawers, amongst the leaflets and the flyers and jagged envelopes and old council tax bills, these little slivers of someone else.
Somehow, the card captures a part of them like a lover’s breath in your lungs.

Item 1 — Two fabric hearts

We took one.
We left the other.
We made sure it smelled of us.  We tucked it under her little sleeping body.  We closed the door and stepped back.  My daughter, in a big plastic box.  I looked at her chest.  It moved up and down almost imperceptibly. She was a minor light in the cold dark matter of the ward at night.
Are they shadows when nothing seems to throw them?  When you are in dark so deep it seems solid?
We took the other home and put it between our palms and held it tight as we wept ourselves to sleep.

The Story of Cold Dark Matter | Tate
Take an look at the meaning and making of Cornelia Parker’s exploded shed in this online resource and explore the work through questions and activities
See the art that inspired this piece here.