Pandora’s Box – Developing…

It pains me having to say this, but the last couple of days had me going mad with lack of inspiration. “Days”, that is – not “nights”. During daytime hours, chores and such would get in the way – a stroll with the dogs here, a half-hour workout there, some cooking, cleaning and tweeting (how did it ever come to this) et voila: the hands of time would point towards “bedtime”, and I’d usually comply. Besides sports, TV hardly seems worth the effort of switching it on anymore.

Once I get upstairs, there’s my bed and there’s the time yet again – but I see no reason to lay down and stare at the ceiling just for reasons of time-related nature; I’ll go to sleep whenever I start feeling, you know, tired and all that. Usually, that’s early morning, which in turn speeds up things during the daytime some more. It’s like circling the drain, passing through the sewer and ending up in tonight’s dirty dishes somehow; not a very attractive procedure, but the alternative isn’t that much better – people do their dish-washing during daytime hours as well, don’t they?

Besides, circling the drain is kind of fun once you get the hang of it. As time passes by, you get to travel a lot faster and at the end, there’s that brief moment of feeling one with both your surroundings and your destiny. Obviously, once you’re done, you’re done. You’ll be passing through the gutters, see strange stuff, forget about 90% of it and smell like rat droppings in the end. Time for a proper dish-washing, one would reckon. Well, breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so you might as well enjoy what’s left of it.

Anyway, I’m circling the drain right now. It’s a quarter past three, the time of night where almost everything around me is passing through their own private plumbing system. As I look up, there’s a little satisfaction in knowing that I’ve at least written something. On the other hand, there’s not much substance to any of it so far. And why did I have to write it in English again? The words, they’re circling a few turns ahead of me; soon, I’ll see them slipping from within my grasp. They’ll be gone forever, ending up in someone else’s dishes tomorrow.

So tonight I’m grasping at anything that comes within arm’s reach, straws included. I felt like writing a poem, but could still see my previous attempt from here. It’s odd how incredibly afraid of reruns I’ve become over the years: performing the same trick over and over again is beneficial to neither the blogger himself nor his visitors, as it wears down the former while letting down the latter. Now, all of this is silly given the current number of posts, which more or less matches my entire readership (a few dozen). Plus, I’ve told myself before to not give in to “outside pressure” – if I feel like writing 49 poems in a row, that’s exactly what I ought to do.

But not tonight. While rejecting the idea of some additional poetry for the night, I found another straw to hold onto: a little black box, made out of thin metal and heavy as a human head.

I’ve been using it as a one-piece bookend for years now, forgetting that it was something other than just that – a bookend. It was kind of hard getting the lid off; and once it did give in to my awesome physical powers, the damn thing had to fly through my bedroom at an incredible speed, leaving a mark in the door where it had met its ill-conceived destination, naturally. Slightly annoyed – as I imagine are others, having been woken up by the noise – I went and picked it up from off of the floor. “Hm. Need to vacuum-clean this place soon.” Someone slams the bathroom door shut and begins to pee ferociously. The gutters are a busy place at night. “Best not do it right now.

I put the lid on the side of my bed, take the little black box off its bookshelf before placing it next to the lid. Due to its heaviness, it almost tips over to the side of my duvet that is least-lumpy. A quick reflex prevents another noisy disaster from happening. Circling the drain is fun.

A quick peek inside the metal box shows more metal, thin metal as that of the container itself – only in the form of something worth a damn, this time: coins in all shapes and states of degredation. Italian Lira, Dutch Guilders, American pennies and Jamaican Dollars. Due to the introduction of the Euro, all of the European monetary units have been rendered useless; most of the coins I’m finding were pretty much worthless to begin with. A few of the Italian ones look like they might fit into a sloppy vending machine still; perhaps worth a shot tomorrow. Most prominent of all is the 20 Schilling bank note, from Austria no less. On it, some guy named Carl Ritter von Ghega is trying to look both friendly and important. Later this night, I’ll learn he designed some railway somewhere. He’ll have to learn getting used to living inside my metal little box for another 60 years or so.

Buried in between the various coins, lie bus, train & museum tickets from all kinds of trips I’ve made during the first 25 years of my life. The entry ticket to the Galleria degli Uffizi (Florence) is among these; if it hadn’t originated from Italy, the ticket’s design would have been deemed kitschy. “Gratuito” – “Free”, it says and I remember how my leaky bottle of 7Up almost destroyed a few centuries of art back there and then. A small receipt from a restaurant located on the Via Della Conciliazione, designed to unify Rome and the Vatican, mentions 20.000 Lira worth of damage in the form of a beverage and a small piece of chocolate cake. “That’ll be 20.000 Euros soon enough, at this pace,” I mumble.

My high school library card, still in mint condition due to almost never having been used, is stuck in between two top and bottom welts; it’ll be there for all eternity, I guess. Laminated plastic, whose idea was that anyway? Although it does offer a nice reflection of a small pin, taken home from Soviet Russia by my grandma. It reads “1945 – 1985: celebration day for wind instrument music and march parades of brass orchestras” (or something to that effect). I still have to look up certain words in Russian, but at least I know how to and how to pronounce the formerly-gibberish characters now.

Some stamps here and there, a few more Jamaican Dollars and then…

A black plastic cylinder appears, as if it were the wax role to my secret little music box. It too has a lid, although this one let’s go a lot easier. As expected, the contents are a lot less diverse: one simple film roll, nicely sealed and with the appropriate data written on its side. “Colour film, 135- (in smaller letters) 24, Super SR200, Process C41.” A small, white bar re-caps the situation in fine-print: “24 Shots, ISO 200/24°”. And that’s it, as far as descriptions go – no hand-written text telling me what’s supposed to be on the actual film. Could these be the last few shots from my graduation class’ trip to Italy? Perhaps it contains birthday pictures from 1994, or perhaps some shots of me and my puppy love at one of these lame early-90’s teenager parties.

Using both hands, I run the canned piece of film through my fingers, trying to develop it with my bare eyes, using my long-term memory as a darkroom – ending up with only flukes for minutes in a row. The hands of the clock strike half past four at night; the bathroom door slams shut once again.

Shock. Horror. Epiphany. All of the sudden I remember everything. I had hoped to rid myself of this memory for all eternity – yet, there it is, staring me right in my face. “Long time no see, buddy. You and I have some unfinished business to tend to.

Why the hell did I keep this thing locked up inside that black little box? I should have destroyed it a long time ago, and never speak of it again, not to anyone. More importantly: why did I have to open that damn box in the first place? For all I care, it made perfect sense as a bookend, sitting on my shelf with its lid shut tight; and nothing else. But no, I had to look for stories, for something other than a poem – and now I’m stuck with this thing, this blasted colour film from 1993, a time when taking pictures actually was something of a chore and as such, results were more likely going to be worth keeping. Worth keeping till well after my death, that is – because that’s why I had decided to hide the film, rather than destroying it.

I’m circling the drain, knowing what I’ll encounter within the gutters of my life tonight. As I try to hold on to the slippery sides of the actual drain itself – my feet already dangling back and forth between the sharp edges below – I’m asking myself whether I should share my secret with the rest of this retched world or not. “Nobody in particular is going to give a damn anyway.

Revelation is just one simple development away; salvation lies right around the corner in the form of a 24/7 quick stop. On the other hand, I might as well burn the damn thing right away – there’s a full box of matches within arm’s reach. And so it’s decided.

Although I’m almost drowning in a sea of ugly memories, I somehow find the strength to pull my head above the water, claw myself a path towards the matches before setting one of them on fire. Clumsily, I take out the film roll, protecting it from the merciless vortex of water that’s surrounding us both.

But the cold of night has taken its toll: my hands are shaking heavily, eventually resulting in the object of my dissatisfaction being launched into the air. The F-word drowns out in the river engulfing me now, and a last attempt at catching the film roll in mid-air fails miserably: I can only watch it being swallowed by one of the drain holes.

Knowing I’m soon the follow next, I curl up in a ball, smearing myself in the oily grease that oozes from the drain’s bottom edges. Gathering my last strengths, I pull out the match – still burning – and set myself ablaze, getting ready to destroy either the film or myself: both outcomes are acceptable. And so I’m dropped into the gutters, leaving a heavy trail of smoke behind, eyes focused at the prize at stake – one of us is going to win this thing. Tonight’s going to be one hell of a ride.

And you made me do it.

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