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The Inner Life of an Ordinary Closet

Everyday, closets are open and shut, with their doors swinging to the hurried push and pull gestures of the hands. I have always only cast cursory glances at my closet—always relegating it to the lowest rungs on the list of things that deserve my attention. Today, feeling particularly adventurous, I decided to look into it—only to be blown away by the intricate web of everyday narratives that time and my callous neglect had jointly woven.

The newspapers that line the shelves are cloaked under a fine layer of dust, with particles waltzing in the wind, under the sway of an accidental puff of breath or the deliberate blow of a gasp. Tucked away neatly, under the newspapers, is an entire ocean of things that were forgotten: broken blue buttons, silver coins that had turned brown, a ten rupee note with a piece of tape running down its centre, the black clips that I always am in desperate need of, but can never find, and, bills collected at clothing shops – the souvenirs of my everyday fetishes—heavily yellowed at the edges.

I become privy to an overwhelming scent of confusion: the scent of starch and detergent from washed clothes, the smell of warmth—the warmth that radiates from freshly ironed sheets, and the eclectic perfume of lavender and vanilla from the scent sachets, rather feeble against the piercing fragrance of naphthalene balls that are nearing exhaustion. This panopticon of scents is held together by the mustiness of dust, which playfully tickles a sneeze out of me. They tell stories without words; they compose symphonies without music.

The topmost shelves are adorned by bags, sweaters and raincoats that I have long outgrown. The bags still house possessions, like forgotten chocolates and pens that never wrote in the first place. As I run my fingers over the sweater, I can feel the slivers of rare winter chill trapped in its fibres. The raincoats, however, are the loveliest—I can hear the sound of raindrops as they crash against the hood, like waves shuddering against rocks. Running my fingers against the edges, I trace the impressions left behind by biscuit boxes and candy jars that I used to selfishly keep hidden from the others, under the seemingly impenetrable glossary of things I call my own.

The bottom shelf is a whole other affair; colourful and exquisite, like a gallery of Rembrandt’s paintings. Here, I find old report cards, albums, folders of my embarrassing kindergarten artwork and an assortment of gift-wrappers that had been stripped from birthday gifts with utmost care.

The inside of the closet doors, permanently scarred from my obsessive use of tape, were pasted – reminders on pink post-it notes, postcards and letters that people were kind enough to send me, handwritten posters of favourite lines painstakingly gathered from books, and belts hanging from plastic hooks, unfazed by the perpetual threat of falling apart. If I stand close enough to the door, I can smell glue that has, over time, secretly escaped into the gaps in the wood.

Sometimes, closets can feel like entire galaxies by themselves. It is inside closets that time feels the happiest, as streams of the past and the present flow together, in a united confluence. But the best part? Closets, to me, are like the prologues that one finds in books. Except that this time I am the character and the book chronicles the oddities and idiosyncrasies that make me—me.

The next time I’ll stand in front of my closet, I’ll give it a little more love, a little more attention, as it awaits me with trembling excitement, wanting me to explore the museum of memories and stories that it has preserved so carefully over the years, so that I never lose the elixir that makes me what I am. And I’ll pay attention then to the closets of those in my universe; the route-maps that lead to their essence reside there, locked away from the travellers who seek them.

Image ‘Empty Cupboard’ by Thomas James Caldwell is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.