At the Original Pancake House, over a gooey apple pancake and crisp, salty hash browns, amid noisy tables full of suburban teenagers in Juicy Couture sweatpants, I learned what was in the boxes. Up to that point, somehow, I’d never asked about their contents. And Jonathan had never told me that they contained several thousand dollars worth of CDs; copies of a record by a favorite band from college, the only album ever released on an independent record label he had started with some friends. The CDs are all that's left from the venture; they're the joint property of Jonathan, his two partners, and the artists; and while the financial aspects of it are quite complex, the bottom line is simple: the inventory didn't move, and everyone lost a lot of money.
With the help of the "dialogue," Jonathan supplied those facts, and then he filled in the feelings: Getting rid of those boxes meant acknowledging a failure, and saying goodbye to a dream.
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And I had threatened to throw them away. The realization left me speechless. I had been callous, careless, selfish, and, worst of all, ignorant: I didn't even know what I didn't know.
The boxes didn't mean anything to me, so of course they didn't mean anything to him, either; he knew there was no room for them in our apartment or our life as well as I did, and therefore he was being lazy, aggravating, and downright rude to me by not doing anything about it.
After a lot of blinking and staring and, finally, on my part, apologizing, we kept going in the dialogue, and had another breakthrough: I was able to clearly articulate to him, for the first time, that clutter makes me anxious in general, and that in this particular instance his reluctance to make space in our newly shared dwelling was holding me back from relaxing and feeling like I was home. I felt petty expressing such feelings in light of what I had just learned, but Jonathan acknowledged and validated my concerns, and said he wanted to address the problem.
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Plus, he told me, he knew the record label was over, and that it was time to say goodbye, to make space for other things.