It’s my twenty-seventh birthday and I’m trying to move an antique filing cabinet in a t-shirt and underwear. In the background plays a song from Bruce Springsteen’s album Darkness on the Edge of Town and I have a glass of whiskey and ginger ale in a Kerr jar sitting by my desk.
The filing cabinet was a gift from my mother. One I asked for, actually, since I’d been in need of something to store my papers and writing supplies. She presented it to me at Christmas of last year (over eight months ago), hidden away in the garage where she had painstakingly, lovingly, painted it with a smooth new coat of cerulean blue. My mother and father had transported it to Los Angeles in the back of their car. Dad and I had walked the heavy piece of furniture up the stairs to my apartment, part by part and they helped me put it all together.
But now they were gone. Not dead, to be clear. Thank god! And I was alone in my bedroom, sipping on my drink and thinking, now where do I want it and how do I get it there? All I can focus on is the task of shifting this heavy cabinet two inches to the left. I wiggle it, back legs tilted off the ground in order to sidle it, centimeter by centimeter, closer to where it needs to be.
Suddenly I find myself wondering if a generation can ever fix what the last generation gave us. This world that sometimes feels more broken than Springsteen’s choking refrain that Adam raised a Cain. In that moment, that crucial moment, I distracted myself from the task at hand. The cabinet scrapes by the corner of the desk and knocks off several layers of papers disguised as detritus onto the floor and a half empty jar of whiskey lies sideways across the mess like a decorative swirl of caramel across a cheesecake. So much for fixing what’s been left to us.
Looking down at the complication I’ve created I can’t help but laugh at my obvious willingness to mess things up all by myself. I hang my head on the corner of the filing cabinet, doubled up with what, I cannot tell. Is it exasperation? humor? resignation? I still don’t really know. Then I pick up the glass, take a deep sip of the remains, and keep moving that beautiful old filing cabinet that still sticks out just a little farther out than where I want it.